News / Asia

South Korea Ferry Death Toll Passes 100

Death Toll Passes 100 as Divers Search South Korea Ferryi
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April 22, 2014 7:20 PM
The death toll from the sinking of a South Korean ferry has risen to 117 as divers continue the search for 185 passengers still missing and presumed dead. Only 174 were rescued when the ship went down almost a week ago, filled mostly with high schools students on their way to the resort island of Jeju. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Jindo, South Korea.

Related report by Daniel Schearf

VOA News
The death toll from last week's South Korea ferry accident exceeded 100 on Tuesday, as divers continue pulling bodies from the sunken vessel.

More than 200 people remain missing and are presumed dead after becoming trapped on the five-story passenger ship, which capsized last Wednesday.

Divers retrieved 17 bodies from the 6,800-ton Sewol ferry early Tuesday. The pace of the recovery effort is expected to speed up as conditions improve.

Coast Guard official Ko Myung-suk said the strong ocean current, which has hampered the effort, is expected to be calmer on Tuesday.

"The wave height of the search operation site is around .5 meters for today. The flow speed is slow so it would be fine to search," said Ko.

With an expected final death toll of around 300, the accident is set to become South Korea's worst ferry disaster in more than two decades.

The ship's captain, third mate, and one other crew member were arrested Saturday on charges of deserting their passengers as the ferry was sinking.

The captain, who was one of the first to leave the ship, said he did not order an immediate evacuation because of the ocean's strong currents and cold water.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said the actions of the crew were "incomprehensible and unacceptable" and "like murder."

South Korean prosecutors say the ferry was being steered by a 26-year-old third mate who was navigating the area for the first time.

Tracking data shows the ship took a sharp turn while navigating a group of small islands off South Korea's southwestern coast.
 
  • 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.

Authorities have not established the cause of the disaster, but some survivors report hearing a loud impact noise before the vessel tilted and began sinking.

A memorial service for many of the victims is planned Wednesday in Ansan, South Korea, home to many of the high school students on the ship.

Most of the victims were high schools students on their way to a school outing on the resort island of Jeju.
 
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