JINDO, SOUTH KOREA
— 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.
Family members of a missing passenger from the capsized passenger ferry, Sewol, wait for news of the rescue operation at a makeshift accommodation, in the port city of Jindo, April 23, 2014.
Women wearing protective suits spray antiseptic solution around the tents of volunteers who distribute food and necessities for relatives of missing passengers of Sewol, in Jindo, April 23, 2014.
People pray during a candlelight vigil to commemorate the victims of capsized passenger ferry Sewol and to wish for the safe return of missing passengers, in Ansan, Korea, April 23, 2014.
Satellite trucks for members of the press reporting on the sunken ferry, Sewol, in Jindo, April 18, 2014. (Sungmin Do/VOA)
A Buddhist monk prays for the missing passengers who were on the South Korean ferry, Sewol. Family members, rescue staff and members of the press gather at the port, Jindo, April 18, 2014. (Sungmin Do/VOA)
A rescue diver jumps in near the buoys installed to mark the location of the sunken ferry Sewol off the southern coast, near Jindo, April 18, 2014.
This giant offshore crane will be used in the rescue operation of the capsized passenger ferry Sewol. Seen here, it is moving into position as members of the South Korean Navy's SSU (Ship Salvage Unit) take part in the rescue operation, Jindo, April 18, 2014.
A family member of a missing passenger on South Korean ferry Sewol cries as she waits for news from a rescue team, Jindo, April 18, 2014.
A family member of missing passengers who were on the Sewol ferry looks toward the site of the incident, Jindo, April 18, 2014.