JINDO, South Korea, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Death toll in a South Korean ferry sinking accident surged to 104 on Tuesday as hundreds of divers kept searching inside the submerged hull while ships and airplanes were scouring the waters.
Coast guard, navy and private divers began conducting underwater search operations from around 6:30 a.m. local time when tidal currents became slower.
On Tuesday morning, 17 more bodies were found, leaving 104 people dead and 198 still missing. The number of the rescued remained unchanged at 174.
Divers conducted an intensive search operation into passenger cabins and convenience facilities on the third and fourth floors of the five-story vessel where bodies and possible survivors are believed to be trapped, Koh Myung-seok, director general of equipment and technology bureau at the South Korean coast guard, told a press briefing.
Koh, who represents the pan-government response center, said that many bodies were found in the third-floor lounge and the fourth-floor cabins on the stern side where students were staying when the ship began to capsize.
The 6,825-ton ferry Sewol capsized and sank off Jindo Island, a southwestern tip of South Korea, last Wednesday. The ship carried 476 passengers, including 325 Danwon High School students and 15 teachers.
Convenience facilities on the third floor are comprised of singing rooms, a dining hall and lounge where students were believed to be given free time for breakfast when the ship was sinking.
Divers succeeded in entering the third-floor lounge, but they had yet to break heavy walls and go into the dining room right next to the lounge, Koh said, noting that the fourth-floor cabins on the bow side will be searched intensively.
Search operations began to gather steam from Monday thanks to favorable weather conditions and guideline ropes.
Five ropes were installed Sunday to guide divers against rapid currents into the sunken ferry, enabling divers to enter the hull at a faster pace than before. Two ropes were installed on the bow side, with two on the stern side and one in the middle of the ship. Five to six ropes planned to be snaked into the hull.
Divers entered inside the hull along their respective guideline ropes simultaneously, resulting in random discovery and retrieval of bodies trapped inside the ship.
On Monday alone, 28 more bodies were retrieved from the ferry, but no survivors or survival signals have been reported yet. Among them were two Chinese men and a Russian student of the Danwon High School.
Climatic conditions are forecast to be favorable for search operations. Water temperature is at 13 degrees Celsius, and waves are 0.5 meter high. Tidal currents are 1.5 knots.
More than 750 divers will be dispatched to search bodies and possible survivors inside the ship, while 239 rescue ships and 32 airplanes will be deployed near the scene.
Ships and airplanes were scouring the waters as bodies from the vessel were floating. Most ships were searching all the waters within a 1 km radius, while four draggers were trawling the waters outside the range.
Rescue efforts were aided by unmanned submersibles called remotely-operated vehicle (ROV). They were used to search the hull where divers were unable to enter. Salvage barges were deployed near the sunken vessel to let divers take a rest and plunge again into the waters.
A total of 25 ships have been deployed to clean up the waters as oil leaked out of the capsized ship on Saturday. Jigging fishing boats, which catch squids, assisted in overnight search to offer lightening for nighttime operations.
SEOUL, April 21 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Park Geun- hye likened what captain and some crew members of the sunken ferry did as murder on Monday, vowing to force those responsible to shoulder legal responsibilities regardless of ranks.
"What captain and some crew members did was like an act of murder that cannot be acceptable and permissible from a common-sense standpoint,"Park said during a meeting with senior secretaries. Full story
JINDO, South Korea, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Last-minute communications between a sunken South Korean ferry and a vessel traffic center were disclosed Sunday by the pan-government emergency management headquarters. Full story
JINDO, South Korea, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Four more crew members of the South Korean ferry that capsized and sank off the country's southwestern coast last Wednesday were arrested on Monday over negligence of duty and violation of rescue acts charges.
Prosecutors have arrested four crew members, including two first mates, one second mate and one chief engineer, of the ferry Sewol, which was upturned and sank off Jindo Island, a southwestern tip of South Korea. Full story