South Korea ferry death toll continues to rise

By Alex Jensen, Wednesday, April 23, 2014

150 confirmed dead on day 8 of search and rescue operation as investigators tighten probe into tragedy

150 confirmed dead on day 8 of search and rescue operation as investigators tighten probe into tragedy

SEOUL - Search and rescue teams pulled dozens more bodies from a sunken ferry off South Korea’s southwestern coast Wednesday, further dashing hopes of finding any more survivors in the wreckage.

The confirmed death toll rose to 150 with another 152 passengers still unaccounted for more than a week after the disaster. 

Improving weather conditions allowed divers further access to the third and fourth floors of the 6,820-ton Sewol ferry, which sank en route to the southern island of Jeju from Incheon last Wednesday morning, carrying mostly high school students among the 476 on board.

Underwater rescue teams focused on the third- and fourth-floor rest areas on day eight of the operation, having forced their way into the ferry’s cafeteria area late Tuesday night.

With more funerals in progress Wednesday, prosecutors stepped up their investigations into what had caused the Sewol ferry to sink and its subsequent delayed evacuation.

Investigators raided offices belonging to the Sewol ferry’s operator, Cheonghaejin Marine Co., as well as the residence of its owner.

“We have been conducting an extensive raid to look into the overall management of the operator and its affiliates,” one of the investigators confirmed.

Seven crew members were also under arrest by Tuesday, including the vessel’s captain, accused of abandoning passengers after initially failing to order the ship’s evacuation.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has likened their actions to “murder,” although the probe into the cause of the tragedy continues.

Not since 1993 has South Korea dealt with such a maritime disaster on this scale – back then 292 of 362 passengers died when their ferry went down in the Yellow Sea, also off the country’s southwestern coast.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency