Search teams intensify efforts after families' anger spills over in attack on deputy head of Korea Coast Guard
SEOUL - Faced with ever desperate calls from relatives of the missing, South Korea's Coast Guard insisted Friday that all available resources were being pooled in ongoing attempts to recover victims of the country's worst ferry disaster in decades.
"Eighty-eight divers were put into the underwater search operation," Koh Myung-suk, a senior Coast Guard official told reporters.
He added that 30 Coast Guard officials, 32 naval officers, 12 firefighters and two dozen civilian experts were also involved in efforts to scour the wreckage of the 6,825-ton Sewol ferry, which sank on April 16 -- investigators are yet to uncover why the vessel ran into trouble off South Korea's southwestern coast.
Most of the 476 passengers who had boarded the ferry at Incheon were high school students set for a trip to Jeju Island.
While at least 181 bodies have been recovered as of Friday, some parents of those still unaccounted physically assaulted the Coast Guard's deputy head Thursday, angry over what they perceive to be an unnecessarily slow rescue operation.
About 20 relatives punched and slapped Choi Sang-Hwan, according to eyewitnesses, after forcing their way into his temporary office near the site of the sinking.
They dragged him to a nearby tent before forcing Choi and his superior to order that more divers be mobilized.
Across the country, thousands have been attending memorials to pay their condolences.
U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to pay respect to those who lost their lives during his 2-day trip to the country, which starts today.
He told reporters at press conference Friday with South Korean President Park Geun-hye that with daughters close to the most of the victims' age, he could only imagine the "incredible heartache" of their parents.
The last major South Korean ferry disaster was in 1993, when 292 of 362 passengers died in the Yellow Sea in North Jeolla Province.
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