JINDO, South Korea, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Death toll of a sunken South Korean ferry rose rapidly Sunday as divers kept entering the hull of the submerged vessel while over 200 ships were scouring the waters.
The pan-government response center said in a press release that six more bodies were found and retrieved from inside the hull and the waters from 10:20 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time, raising the total death toll to 58.
A total of 641 divers went down into the hull from surface along five ropes, which guide the divers against rapid currents to the underwater gate of the ferry, enabling divers to enter the hull at a much faster pace than before.
They entered the hull along their respective guideline ropes simultaneously, resulting in random discovery and retrieval of bodies trapped inside the ship.
More than 210 ships and decades of airplanes conducted search operations for bodies in the waters near the site of the accident.
So far, 58 people have been confirmed dead, and 244 still missing. The number of those rescued was unchanged at 174.
In the morning, massive bodies were found. At 5:35 a.m., one body was retrieved from the cabin, and 15 minutes later three more bodies were collected. Nine bodies were recovered from the hull from 7:40 to 8:02 a.m.
Divers have striven against rapid currents to get into the hull of the ship, and found three bodies with the naked eye for the first time on Saturday morning. One navy diver died on Sunday after being injured while conducting rescue operations.
The headquarters disclosed last-minute communication logs between the ferry and a vessel traffic center, showing many passengers may have lost chances to escape from the ship because of the captain's misjudgment.
Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, was arrested Saturday for five charges including negligence of duty and abandonment resulting in death. He ordered passengers to stay put while he and other crew members were leaving the sinking ferry. The captain was among the first to abandon the vessel.
Two sailors, including the third-ranking officer and the helmsman, were also arrested for similar charges with Lee.
Prosecutors applied the additional law on specific crimes to the three crew members as they gave up the ship without making efforts to evacuate passengers first.
Prosecutors prohibited around 40 officials of the ship's operator Chonghaejin Marine from leaving the country to probe into whether there is any illegal act in running the ship such as overloading and illegal modification of the vessel.
The 6,825-ton passenger ship departed South Korea's western port city of Incheon Tuesday night for the southern resort island of Jeju, carrying 476 people that included 325 high school students and 15 teachers on their way for a four-day field trip.
First funerals for four Danwon High School students, who had been killed by the ferry sinking disaster, were held Sunday. The Sewol ferry capsized and sank off Jindo Island, near the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula, on Wednesday morning.
South Korea was considering designating the site of the accident as a special disaster zone. Prime Minister Chung Hong-won held a meeting of related ministers at the Jindo Island Sunday and decided to make such proposal to President Park Geun-hye who was widely expected to declare it soon.
Jindo and Ansan were designated as candidates for special disaster zones as physical and psychological damages continued to grow among victims of the deadly accident.
Most of victims came from the Danwon High School in Ansan, a Seoul suburb. The ship sank off the Jindo Island.
10 more bodies found while searching sunken S.Korean ferry
JINDO, South Korea, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Ten more bodies have been found Sunday while divers were conducting search operations for the ferry, which capsized off Jindo Island on Wednesday morning, the pan-government emergency management headquarters said.
It has not yet been confirmed if the bodies were discovered in waters near the upturned vessel, or retrieved from inside the ship. Full story
Misinformation from gov't adds fury to sunken S. Korean ferry tragedy
JINDO, South Korea, April 20 (Xinhua) -- When a ferry capsized off South Korea's southwestern coast Wednesday, the Ministry of Security and Public Administration said 368 people were rescued. Hours later, it was down by more than half to 164. Vice Minister Lee Kyung-ok said the misinformation came from confusing reports from various agents at the scene. The number was rescinded later several times before being fixed at 174 on Friday. Full story