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Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

  • Daniel Schearf

Relatives of passengers on a sunken South Korean ferry have lashed out at authorities after they failed for a fourth day to enter the vessel. The confirmed deathtoll stands at 46, but some 250 remain trapped on board.

At a sports stadium in Jindo, a southern port town near the site of the sinking, hundreds of relatives of passengers on the capsized ferry waited, hoping for good news.

But Coast Guard Deputy Chief Choi Sang-hwan told the crowd rescue divers failed once again to reach those on board, most of them high school students.

"Because the water is too strong, the divers cannot get into the ship. But, we are doing our best,” he said.

Exhausted and incensed at the lack of progress, one father tried to attack the officers.

South Korea's Prime Minister Chung Hong-won and the Coast Guard chief are leading the operation.

Scores of rescue aircraft and boats are working with hundreds of rescue divers, but their efforts so far do little to comfort the parents.

"Bring the captain here and then kill him in the water! And, bring back our children!" one mother said.

The cause of the sinking is still being investigated.

The captain, Lee Joon-seok, was arrested Saturday along with the helmsman and third mate, who were also on duty. They face criminal charges of abandoning their ship and passengers during a crisis, accidental homicide, or both.

South Korean media reports said the captain was one of the first to abandon ship and told passengers not to move.

"At the time, the current was very strong, temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without [proper] judgement, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties," said Lee Joon-seok.

"The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships other boats near by at that time," he said.

Relatives of the missing lined up to give DNA samples in a grim reminder that the body count in this tragedy will only rise.

But some, still holding out hope, refused, asking how it would help save their children.

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