JINDO, South Korea, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Search operations in the South Korean ferry, which capsized and sank off the country's southwestern coast on April 16, slowed Friday as the operation was protracted amid rising concerns that many bodies were floated far away from the scene.
Two more bodies were recovered from the submerged vessel since, raising the total death toll to 185 Friday night, with 117 still missing. The number of the rescued has been unchanged at 174 since the first day of the deadly sinking incident.
On the tenth day into search, only 11 bodies were retrieved. The number of bodies recovered became lower from Thursday as tidal currents in the area became faster than expected.
Waters off Jindo Island, famous for the country's second- fastest currents, were forecast to slow for four days from Monday, but the pace speeded up from Thursday when 15 bodies were recovered.
Divers found 38 bodies Wednesday after discovering 36 people Tuesday and 28 others Monday.
Amid the prolonged operations, concerns were growing that many bodies may have been floated far away from the ship. Among 185 bodies recovered so far, more than 40 bodies have been known to be found in waters near the submerged ship.
Eight trawlers were scouring waters to hunt for possibly floating bodies, but some worried that many bodies may have been swept by swift currents far away from the vessel as fishnets to prevent the loss of bodies were installed Tuesday, six days after the ferry sinking.
The tidal currents turned faster and it was expected to rain from Saturday, raising possibilities for bodies to be swept away.
The government-wide disaster response headquarters said that 88 divers searched passenger cabins on the third and fourth floors of the five-story vessel from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some 10 divers can trace guideline ropes into the submerged vessel at a time because 5 ropes are being snaked into the ship.
On the previous day, 81 divers hunted for bodies at the middle part of the third floor and cabins of the fourth floor on the stern side.
For night operations, jigging fishing boats, which catch squids, were deployed to provide lighting for rescue ships and divers. Diving bell, a rigid chamber to transport divers deep into the ocean, will be used to offer a room with a decompression device.
The U.S. Navy's salvage ship USS Safeguard is scheduled to arrive in the scene at about 3 a.m. Saturday to help in rescue efforts. U.S. Navy divers will join the search operations, if needed.
Rescue experts from the United States, the Netherlands, Britain and Japan have been providing counseling on the rescue operations, the headquarters said.
U.S. President Barack Obama conveyed condolences for victims of the ferry disaster as he arrived in Seoul Friday for a summit with President Park Geun-hye.
The U.S. president expressed a deep sorrow as a great damage was done to especially young people, showing his deep condolences to all the victims as a representative of all American people.
The U.S. president also sent magnolia saplings, taken from the White House, to Danwon High School in Ansan, a city south of Seoul. Among the 476 passengers aboard the sunken vessel were 325 students of the high school and 14 teachers.
Body of fourth Chinese passenger on S. Korean ferry recovered: embassy
JINDO, South Korea, April 25 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese embassy said Friday that rescuers recovered the body of a fourth Chinese passenger, identified as a high school girl, after South Korean ferry Sewol with 476 people aboard capsized and sank off Jindo Island on April 16.
A total of four Chinese nationals were on board the ill-fated ship en route from the western port city of Incheon to the southern resort island of Jeju. And the embassy has confirmed the death of the other three -- two men and a woman -- since search and rescue operation began nine days ago. Full story
Feature: "Dad, the ferry is capsized"
JINDO, South Korea, April 23 (Xinhua) -- "Dad, the ferry is capsized." These were the last words a daughter spoke to her father in a cellphone call as the 6,825-ton ferry "Sewol" was listing.
A week later, when a Xinhua reporter saw the tan-skinned father, he was viewing a body, trying to identify whether it was his sole daughter. South Korea's Coast Guard later said the body was someone else based on a DNA test. Full story