JINDO, South Korea, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Death toll from a sunken South Korean ferry continued to rise to 181 on Friday as divers kept searching bodies, or possible survivors, inside the submerged vessel.
On the tenth day since the ferry carrying 476 people capsized off the country's southwestern coast on April 16, seven more bodies were recovered from the ship, raising the death toll to 181, with 121 still missing. The number of the rescued has been unchanged at 174 since the first day of the deadly incident.
The government-wide disaster response headquarters said at a press briefing that 88 divers will search passenger cabins on the third and fourth floors of the five-story vessel from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time. Only 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. As of 10 a.m.Friday, 86 male and 95 female passengers have been confirmed dead, the headquarters.
The U.S. Navy's salvage ship USS Safeguard was scheduled to arrive in waters near Jindo Island at around 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.
Rescue operations were hampered Thursday as tidal currents became faster than expected. Weather forecast had said the currents in the area would slow down for four days through Thursday. It was forecast to rain from Saturday night.
Only 15 bodies were retrieved Thursday, much lower than 38 bodies discovered Wednesday. Divers recovered 36 people Tuesday and 28 others Monday respectively.
Hundreds of divers resumed entering the ship at around 5 a.m. local time to search passenger cabins on the third and fourth floors of the five-story vessel where many passengers, two thirds of whom were high school students, have been believed to be trapped.
The 476 passengers included 325 Danwon High School students and 14 teacher. With hopes fading for possible survivors as the death toll continued to grow, the high school in Ansan, a city south of Seoul, established an altar in a gymnasium to mourn the young students dead in the incident.