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Diving Bell Ready for Use in South Korea's Sunken Ferry Disaster

Maritime police search for missing passengers in front of the South Korean ferry "Sewol" which sank at the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A 'Diving Bell' is ready for use to help divers in the sunken ferry, a South Korean Coast Guard said on Friday (April 26) as the desperate search and rescue operation continues on the 10th day from the accident with the death toll rose to 187.

'Diving Bell' is a bell-like metal structure, known to be a 16th century invention, that submerge up to 40 meters to create a air-filled space for divers for rest and resupply.

The Coast Guard has mobilized the device to the disaster site, 25 km off the coast of Jindo, South Korea, on the previous day.

``The barge carrying 'Diving Bell' has arrived at the site in the afternoon yesterday, but it has not been used for the operation due to troubles in anchoring the barge. The 'Diving Bell' is now ready for use anytime,'' said South Korean coast guard spokesman Ko Myung-suk in a news conference.

Officials has said anchoring the barge that operates the diving bell is extremely difficult due to the fast tidal currents. Risk is high that the anchoring chains would tangle with others from rescue boats already there.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy recovery vessel USNS Safeguard, which is capable of conducting salvage, diving, towing, and heavy-lift operations, was on its way to the disaster site to support the divers.

``Safeguard is now at Busan harbor loading supplies that will be delivered to the rescuers. In addition, five U.S. diving professionals will be also dispatched to the site to give advices to the divers,'' Ko said.

Regarding a recent rumor that 48 bodies have been located in a cabin that divers could not immediately retrieve, the Coast Guard official said it's not officially confirmed.

``That hasn't been confirmed by our officials at the site,'' Ko said.

Some foreign media has reported on April 25 that according to a South Korean official, searchers have discovered bodies of 48 girls wearing life vests in a cabin with a capacity of 30. The name of the South Korean officials was not given in those reports.