The death toll from the South Korean ferry disaster reached 150 on Wednesday, more than a week after the Sewol, which was carrying more than 470 people, sank off South Korea’s southern coast, leading to a major rescue operation with government officials stating that divers may now have to rip through cabin walls to retrieve victims, as more than 100 are reported still missing.
Coast Guard officials reportedly said that divers will soon be receiving high-tech underwater search equipment to assist in the search for the missing people. The majority of the passengers on board were high school students on a field trip to Jeju island, about 60 miles south of the Korean peninsula. The ferry sank April 16 after a sudden and unexpected turn, which is believed to have destabilized the vessel. The recovered bodies of passengers were reportedly being taken to Jindo island, north of Jeju island.
Even as the death toll rose, funeral halls in Ansan, from where most of the passengers hailed, had filled up and authorities were asking families of the dead to seek funeral homes in nearby cities, Associated Press reported, citing the government-run emergency task force center. The search operation has also been hampered by strong currents and low visibility, the report added.
On Monday, South Korean authorities reportedly arrested four crew members and barred the family who owns the Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, which operated the vessel from leaving the country while the investigation continues. President Park Geun-hye charged the ferry’s captain and two crew members with negligence of duty and violating maritime law after abandoning the ship without helping the passengers. She reportedly said that the act was “unforgivable” and “murderous.”
A prosecution official reportedly told a local newspaper: “The measure is to question them and hold them responsible for the poor management of the vessel.”