JINDO: The confirmed death toll from South Korea’s ferry disaster rose sharply to more than 120 Tuesday as divers speeded up the grim task of recovering bodies from the submerged ship and police took two more of its crew into custody.
Better weather and calm seas spurred their efforts but underwater visibility was still very poor, forcing divers to grope their way blindly though the corridors and cabins of the ferry that capsized and sank last Wednesday.
Nearly one week into one of South Korea’s worst peacetime disasters, close to 200 of the 476 people who were aboard the 6,825-tonne Sewol — most of them schoolchildren — are still unaccounted for.
The official toll stood at 121, with 181 still missing.
Nearly 750 divers, mostly coastguard and military, are now involved in the operation.
“The weather is better, but it’s still very difficult for the divers who are essentially fumbling for bodies in the silted water,” a coastguard official told reporters.
Of the 476 people on board the Sewol, 352 were students from the Danwon High School in Ansan city just south of Seoul, who were on an organised trip to the holiday island of Jeju.
Among the bodies recovered so far were those of three foreign nationals — believed to be a Russian and two Chinese.
Giant floating cranes have been at the disaster site off the southern coast for days, but many relatives remain opposed to raising the ferry before all the bodies have been removed.