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Monday, April 21, 2014, 11:09
Divers find bodies inside sunken ferry
By Associated Press in Mokpo, South Korea

The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster rose past 50 on Sunday as divers finally found a way inside the sunken vessel, quickly discovering more than a dozen bodies in what almost certainly is just the beginning of a massive and grim recovery effort.

About 250 people are still missing from the ship, the vast majority of them high school students who had been on a holiday trip. Anguished families, waiting on a nearby island and fearful they might be left without even their loved ones' bodies, have vented their fury, blocking the prime minister's car during a visit and attempting a long protest march to the presidential Blue House.

The ferry Sewol sank on Wednesday off South Korea's southern coast, but it took days for divers to get in because of strong currents and bad visibility due to foul weather. Beginning late on Saturday, when divers broke a window, and continuing into Sunday, multiple teams of divers have found various routes into the ferry, discovering bodies in different spots, coast guard official Koh Myung-seok said at a briefing. Thirteen bodies have been found in the ship, while six other bodies were found floating outside on Sunday, bringing the official death toll to 58, the coast guard said.

Divers, who once pumped air into the ship in the slim hope that survivors were inside, have yet to find any survivors there.

A 21-year-old South Korean sailor surnamed Cho also died from injuries he sustained on Wednesday while working on a warship on its way to help rescue passengers in the ferry, said Commander Yim Myung-soo of the South Korean navy.

The penetration by divers into the ferry follows the arrest of the captain on Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a rookie third mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.

The Sewol sank during a trip from the port of Incheon to the southern holiday island of Jeju with 476 people on board, including 323 students from Danwon High School in Ansan. The 16- and 17-year-old students make up only 75 of the 174 survivors.

The cause of the sinking remains under investigation, but prosecutors say the ship made a sharp turn just before the ferry began to list. The captain, Lee Joon-seok, initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and took at least half an hour to issue an evacuation order. By that time, the ship was listing at too steep an angle for many people to escape the tight hallways and stairs inside.

Lee faces five charges, including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law, and the two arrested crew members each face three related charges.

 
 
 
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