South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye has criticized the captain and crew of a passenger ferry for abandoning ship while it sank with hundreds on board, equating their action to “murder.”
The captain and at least six crew members have been arrested. Recovery teams have retrieved 87 bodies so far, while 210 remain missing.
The death toll from the sunken Sewol ferry rose rapidly Monday as divers were able to move deeper into the capsized ship and recover more bodies.
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye at a morning meeting had strong words for those in charge of the passenger ferry.
She says the conduct of the captain and some crew members is unfathomable, from the viewpoint of common sense, and it was like an act of murder that cannot and should not be tolerated. The captain failed to follow evacuation orders from the Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center immediately after the accident, she says. Crew members told the passengers to stay where they were but then escaped themselves. She says this is legally and ethically unimaginable.
The captain, Lee Joon-seok, and several crew members are under arrest and facing charges of negligence and violating maritime law.
The ferry sank Wednesday with 476 people on board, most of them high school students on a school trip. Rescue ships saved 179 as the ship went down but, despite fervent attempts, no one has been saved since.
Rescue efforts were hampered by strong currents and murky water. Wreckage and debris also prevented divers from entering passenger areas of the ferry until late Saturday.
Days of anguish are turning to grief for the hundreds of relatives of victims camped on the floor of Jindo's gymnasium.
Kim Ha-na's brother was on the ferry, one of 338 students and teachers from Danwon High-School in Ansan just south of Seoul.
She says she had hope but now she feels complicated and heavy-hearted. Even though air is being pumped into the ship, she says, any suvrivors have had no food or water for six days. She wonders if her brother can still be alive.
It is still not clear what caused the 6,300-ton ship to sink. Survivors reported hearing a loud noise before it began to list, prompting speculatation the ferry could have hit a submerged rock. But investigators are also looking into the possibility that cargo, including numerous vehicles, came loose during a sharp turn and threw the ferry off-balance. South Korean media reports say investigators are also considering recent repairs to the ship and its structural integrity.
President Park on Sunday declared Jindo and Ansan special disaster zones in order to fast-track emergency support.