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The Sewol ferry has been raised from the sea bed, three years after it sank in one of South Korea’s deadliest disasters.

The ferry sank off the south-western island of Jindo on April 16, 2014, killing 304 people, almost all school children on a trip.

It has been winched to the surface so a platform can be inserted under it for it to be towed ashore.

The Sewol is expected to arrive at port in less than two weeks, where it will be met by the families of victims.

Photo Reuters

The bodies of nine victims are believed to still be trapped inside the sunken ship, and raising it was one of the central demands of their families.

The 16-year-old daughter of Huh Hong-Hwan was one victim whose remains were never found.

The Sewol sinking was blamed on a combination of illegal redesigns, cargo overloading, the inexperience of the crew member steering the vessel, and lax government regulations. The ship’s captain was later convicted of murder.

Anger over the response of the authorities after the disaster contributed to the unpopularity of former President Park Geun-hye, who was recently ousted.

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South Korean students who survived the Sewol ferry disaster have described escaping from flooded cabins as the ship sank.

The students had obeyed the crew’s orders to stay put, even as water started coming in as the Sewol listed.

Students floated up to cabin doors – by now overhead – and were pulled out by their classmates.

The Sewol ferry sank on April 16 off Jeju Island, killing 304 people. The students were giving evidence against the captain of the Sewol ferry and 14 crew.

They are accused of charges ranging from negligence to homicide.

It was the first time any of the teenagers on board the ferry have testified in a trial that is expected to last several weeks.

“We were waiting and, when the water started coming in, the class rep told everyone to put on the life vests,” Reuters news agency quoted one student as saying.

“The door was above our heads, so she said, <<We’ll float and go through the door>> and that’s how we came out.

The trial of crew members of the sunken Sewol ferry in South Korea

The trial of crew members of the sunken Sewol ferry in South Korea (photo Reuters)

“Other kids who got out before us pulled us out.”

Most of those who died on the Sewol were teenagers from the same high school who were on a school trip.

While the crew are charged with abandoning ship, the captain and three officers are also charged with “homicide through willful negligence”.

Investigators say the ferry had been illegally modified to carry more passengers and cargo, and was overloaded.

Prosecutors say the actions of the captain and crew – including instructing passengers to stay in their cabins as the ship listed – led to more deaths.

The students are testifying at a district court near their homes near Seoul, rather than at the actual trial in the southern city of Gwangju.

One witness told the court passengers received multiple instructions to stay put.

“They kept saying the same thing over and over,” AFP quoted the student as saying.

Another student described escaping through a stairwell to a hatch and jumping into the sea, as a swell hit.


“There were many classmates in the corridor and most of them were swept back into the ship,” she said.

The disaster – which correspondents say was South Korea’s worst maritime disaster in 44 years – caused shock and outrage, including harsh criticism of both bureaucrats and business officials whose alleged failings or corruption led to the tragedy.

Officials from ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine are also the subject of separate legal proceedings.

Earlier this month, police identified a body found on 12 June as company owner Yoo Byung-eun, who had been the subject of a man-hunt since the disaster.

Yoo Byung-eun’s son, Yoo Dae-kyun, was arrested on Friday.

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The cause of death for fugitive owner of Sewol ferry, Yoo Byung-eun, cannot be determined, South Korea’s forensic agency says.

Yoo Byung-eun was blamed for the recent ferry disaster.

Last week police identified a body found on June 12 as Yoo Byung-eun.

Yoo Byung-eun was wanted for questioning on possible charges linked to the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April, which killed more than 300 people.

Forensic experts said the state of the body meant the manner of his death could not be determined.

Yoo Byung-eun was wanted for questioning on possible charges linked to the sinking of the Sewol ferry

Yoo Byung-eun was wanted for questioning on possible charges linked to the sinking of the Sewol ferry

“It was impossible to conclude the cause of death since Yoo’s body was in a very advanced stage of decomposition,” Seo Joong-seok, director of the National Forensic Service (NFS), told journalists.

The NFS had ruled out drugs or poison, he said. But there had been no way to rule out other possible causes.

“There is no way to determine whether he had suffered any wounds,” Seo Joong-seok said.

“And as the intestines were so badly decomposed, we were unable to determine any disease as a cause.”

Police have been criticized for failing to connect the body, which spent six weeks in the mortuary, with Yoo Byung-eun, who was the subject of a lengthy manhunt.

Prosecutors have revealed that he hid in a cupboard at his holiday home to evade arrest. His body was found just 2.5 km from his cabin, in a plum orchard.

Yoo Byung-eun owned Chonghaejin Marine Co, which operated the Sewol.

Sewol ferry sank on April 16 off Jeju island, killing most of its passengers including scores of high-school students. Investigators say it had been illegally modified to carry more passengers and cargo, and was overloaded.

Yoo Byung-eun was wanted for questioning on possible charges of embezzlement and criminal negligence.

The sinking of the Sewol triggered widespread grief and anger at the government, which has promised to overhaul its bureaucracy and improve its emergency response.

Two separate trials – one for the vessel’s captain and crew, and another for officials at Chonghaejin Marine – began last month.

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South Korean police has confirmed that a body they found in June is that of Yoo Byung-eun, the fugitive boss of the operator of Sewol ferry that sank in April, killing more than 300 people.

Billionaire businessman Yoo Byung-eun went missing shortly after the disaster, sparking a massive manhunt.

DNA samples from the body matched those of Yoo Byung-eun’s brother, police spokesman Woo Hyung-ho said.

Police had wanted to question Yoo Byung-eun on possible criminal negligence charges.

Yoo Byung-eun, 73, was head of the family that owned ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine Co.

Yoo Byung-eun went missing shortly after the Sewol ferry disaster, sparking a massive manhunt

Yoo Byung-eun went missing shortly after the Sewol ferry disaster, sparking a massive manhunt

He went on the run shortly after the Sewol ferry, whose passengers were mostly schoolchildren, went down near Jindo island.

Yonhap news agency reported that police found a heavily decomposed body last month in a plum field in Suncheon, a city 186 miles south of Seoul.

Yoo Byung-eun was wanted for questioning on possible charges of embezzlement and criminal negligence, as prosecutors investigate whether the disaster was caused by mismanagement.

Many of his family members have been arrested and his daughter, who lives in France, is currently fighting an extradition bid. His eldest son is still on the run.

In June, some 6,000 police officers stormed a church complex in Anseong city belonging to Yoo Byung-eun.

Four church followers were detained on charges of assisting his escape and police said they were looking for several more who had helped the billionaire.

Outside the church, supporters held up a large banner that read: “We’ll protect Yoo Byung-eun even if 100,000 church members are all arrested.”

A reward of 500 million won ($490,000) had been offered for information leading to Yoo Byung-eun’s capture and 100 million won for that of his son, Yoo Dae-Kyun.

The sinking of the Sewol triggered widespread grief and anger at the government, which has promised to overhaul its bureaucracy and improve emergency response.

Two separate trials, one for Sewol ferry’s captain and crew, and another for Chonghaejin Marine Co officials, began last month.

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According to an interim report of South Korea’s government, the April 16 sinking of the Sewol ferry was partly due to government negligence and corruption.

The report cited lax regulation, poor safety inspections and a slow and badly-coordinated coast guard response as factors that led to the disaster.

Eleven officials have been referred to prosecutors on corruption charges and dozens more face possible legal action.

The Sewol ferry sinking killed 304 passengers, most of whom were students.

A total of 293 bodies have been recovered and 11 passengers remain unaccounted for. Search operations are still continuing.

The Sewol ferry sinking killed 304 passengers, most of whom were students

The Sewol ferry sinking killed 304 passengers, most of whom were students

The disaster sparked national mourning and intense public criticism of the government.

Two separate trials, one for the ferry’s captain and crew, and another for the head of the ferry operator and other company officials, began last month.

The South Korean government’s audit and inspection board said in its report on Tuesday that the regional port administration had licensed the ferry even though it had been illegally converted, according to state news agency Yonhap.

The ship was found to have been illegally modified so that it could carry more cargo.

The Korean Register of Shipping, which is a body appointed by the government to inspect ships, also did not carry out proper safety check-ups.

The report also said the coast guard missed a crucial period to rescue passengers and botched its rescue operations. The agency failed to maintain proper communication with the ferry and issued ill-matched rescue orders.

Meanwhile the trial of the ferry’s captain and 14 crew members continued on Tuesday in the city of Gwangju, with video evidence from inside the stricken ship shown in court.

Prosecutors have alleged that the more than 300 deaths were avoidable had the crew acted differently. They said they would show footage of a young passenger standing metres from an exit door as the ship sank.

The gallery was packed with parents of victims, who jeered and shouted at the defendants when a video of the captain and crew jumping into a rescue boat was shown, according to agencies.

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The Gwanju court has begun hearing evidence in the trial of the Sewol ferry captain and 14 crew members.

The Sewol ferry crew is charged with negligence and abandoning ship. The captain and three officers are also charged with “homicide through willful negligence”.

Captain Lee Joon-sok’s lawyer suggested he would contest the murder charge because there was no intent to kill.

The Sewol ferry capsized and sank on April 16, with 476 people on board.

Captain Lee Joon-sok's lawyer suggested he would contest the murder charge in Sewol ferry case because there was no intent to kill

Captain Lee Joon-sok’s lawyer suggested he would contest the murder charge in Sewol ferry case because there was no intent to kill (photo EPA)

A total of 304 people are believed to have died. Divers have conducted an extensive search of the sunken ship to recover their bodies and on Tuesday retrieved the remains of a female passenger.

That brings the number of bodies recovered to 293, with 11 people still unaccounted for. Most of those on board the ferry were teenagers on a school trip.

Prosecutors say the ship capsized because it was overloaded, with cargo improperly stowed. Five executives from ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine are also facing charges.

The tragedy has caused shock and outrage in South Korea.

The crew has been accused of prioritizing their own safety over that of passengers, and also of causing more deaths by instructing people to remain in their cabins instead of evacuating the ship.

They are being tried at the district court in the southern city of Gwangju.

Students who survived the sinking are to testify next month at a court close to their homes near Seoul, instead of at the court in Gwangju, it was also announced on Tuesday.

The decision was aimed at minimizing further stress to the students, court officials said.

Meanwhile South Korea’s President Park Guen-hye, whose government has also faced tough criticism over the disaster, suffered another blow when her second nominee for prime minister withdrew from consideration.

The incumbent, Chung Hong-won, has tendered his resignation over the handling of the ferry disaster.

However, Park Geun-hye’s first choice as his replacement withdrew amid questions over his finances, and her second, Moon Chang-keuk, over controversial Japan-related comments that he made.

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Kim Han-sik, the head of the company that operated the South Korean ferry that capsized, killing hundreds, goes on trial today.

Chonghaejin Marine’s president Kim Han-sik, 73, and four employees are charged with negligence over claims that the company routinely overloaded the ferry.

A separate trial of the Sewol ferry captain and 14 other crew members started last week. They face various charges related to their failure to help passengers.

At least 292 people, mostly school students, died in the Sewol ferry tragedy.

Chonghaejin Marine's president Kim Han-sik and four employees are charged with negligence over claims that the company routinely overloaded the Sewol ferry

Chonghaejin Marine’s president Kim Han-sik and four employees are charged with negligence over claims that the company routinely overloaded the Sewol ferry (photo Yonhap)

The Sewol ferry disaster has caused an outpouring of public anger in South Korea and there have been calls for severe punishment for the crew.

The case has received feverish media coverage, with commentators suggesting the defendants will struggle to get a fair trial.

The ferry company’s owner, Yoo Byung-eun, is still on the run. He has been the target of a nationwide manhunt since he refused to respond to an official summons last month.

Meanwhile, diving teams are still trying to find 12 people still regarded as missing from the ferry.

The latest underwater search failed to find new bodies from the sunken vessel.

Separately, Choo Kyo-Young, head teacher at the school many of the students attended, has been suspended “in connection with the disaster”.

No further explanation was given.

The school’s deputy head teacher, who was rescued from the ferry, killed himself after the disaster.

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Some parents had initially criticized the school for going ahead with the trip despite poor weather conditions.

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Fifteen sailors have gone on trial over the deaths of at least 292 people in South Korea’s Sewol ferry disaster.

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and three crew members are being accused of “homicide through willful negligence”. The others face lesser charges.

The trial will focus on Lee Joon-seok’s escape from the sinking ferry while hundreds of passengers remained trapped inside.

Most of the victims of the April disaster were school students, and many of their relatives are at the court.

If convicted, Lee Joon-seok and three crew members could be handed the death penalty, but observers say it is extremely unlikely it would be carried out.

Fifteen sailors have gone on trial over the deaths of at least 292 people in South Korea’s Sewol ferry disaster

Fifteen sailors have gone on trial over the deaths of at least 292 people in South Korea’s Sewol ferry disaster (photo EPA)

Eleven other crew are being tried on lesser charges of criminal negligence and maritime law violations.

A nationwide manhunt is also under way for fugitive Korean businessman Yoo Byung-Eun, who is believed to own the Chonghaejin Marine company that ran the sunken ferry.

Yoo Byung-Eun’s daughter, Yoo Som-Na, 47, was detained in May at her home in Paris under an international arrest warrant.

Authorities are also searching for his eldest son, Yoo Dae-Kyun, offering a $100,000 for information leading to his arrest.

Yoo Byung-Eun is wanted for questioning on possible charges of embezzlement and criminal negligence.

Prosecutors have offered a $500,000 cash reward for information leading to Yoo Byung-Eun ‘s arrest.

Analysts say there are concerns that the crew will be unable to receive a fair trial in the district court in the south-western city of Gwangju.

The Sewol ferry disaster caused an outpouring of public anger, and there have been calls for severe punishment for the crew.

President Park Geun-hye condemned the conduct of some of the crew of the ferry, calling it “akin to murder”.

The confirmed death toll from the South Korea ferry disaster has reached 292, with 12 passengers still missing.

Prosecutors say the ferry owner ignored safety warnings and allowed the ship to be overloaded.

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Sewol ferry Captain Lee Joon-seok has been charged with manslaughter in South Korea, reports say.

Lee Joon-seok, 68, is accused of leaving the ship as it was sinking while telling passengers to stay put, Yonhap reported.

He was among the first to be rescued by coast guards at the scene.

The Sewol ferry disaster on April 16 killed 281 passengers, most of whom were high school students. Another 23 are still missing.

Sewol ferry Captain Lee Joon-seok has been charged with manslaughter

Sewol ferry Captain Lee Joon-seok has been charged with manslaughter (photo Yonhap)

Besides Lee Joon-seok, three crew members – the chief engineer, the chief mate and the second mate – are also being charged with manslaughter. If convicted, they could face life imprisonment.

“The [four people charged] escaped before the passengers, leading to grave casualties,” prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told journalists.

Prosecutors have indicted another 11 crew members for negligence.

Only 172 passengers survived the sinking of the ferry, including 22 of the 29 crew members.

The authorities have also arrested several people who were not on the ferry at the time of sinking.

These include five officials of the ferry owner, Chonghaejin Marine Company, and an employee of a private safety device inspection company.

The latter is suspected of conducting poor inspections of the ferry’s safety equipment.

South Korea, meanwhile, is looking to reform its safety and emergency response system in the wake of the ferry’s sinking.

President Park Geun-hye said on Tuesday that the government would soon release details of this move, said Yonhap.

She has previously apologized for the way the government handled the incident, amid questions over the initial rescue effort.

Following the recent death of a civilian rescue diver, Seoul also plans to provide psychological help for rescue workers “suffering from physical and mental agony”, said local media.

It comes amid reports the ship, submerged for nearly a month, has begun to deteriorate, making it even more difficult for divers to search for bodies.

Officials said that divers had spotted walls “getting weaker and about to collapse”. Rescue workers are now plotting new routes through the hull.

Earlier reports said that some bodies had floated away from the ship, prompting workers to deploy nets around the site.

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According to the South Korean coastguard, the number of people who survived the Sewol ferry disaster three weeks ago has been over-counted by two passengers.

Coastguard chief Kim Suk-kyoon said only 172 people survived the April 16 sinking – not 174, as the government had been saying since April 18.

Kim Suk-kyoon said the miscount was due to mistakes in the counting process.

PM Chung Hong-won has said that the search for victims in the sunken ferry must be completed by the weekend.

The number of people who survived the Sewol ferry disaster has been over-counted by two passengers

The number of people who survived the Sewol ferry disaster has been over-counted by two passengers (photo Yonhap)

Correspondents say that the changes to the survivor count means that the number of people feared dead has risen to 304.

So far 269 bodies have been recovered.

More than 80% of the victims are students from a single high school near Seoul who were on a trip to southern Jeju island.

Kim Suk-kyoon said that one miscount was because one of the survivors was accidentally listed twice – the other was due to an inaccurate report supplied by a passenger who survived.

Correspondents say that families of the victims and many other South Koreans will see the miscount as the latest manifestation of the government’s mishandling of the rescue effort.

The authorities have also been accused of a series of regulatory failures before the ferry sunk.

Rescuers on Wednesday continued their intensive search, with coastguard, navy and civilian divers working in shifts to open all of the 64 passenger cabins where the missing are thought to be trapped.

In addition fishermen have been asked to search the waters near the site of the sinking because of fears that bodies and belongings of the passengers could be swept away from the sunken vessel despite the installation of nets that were supposed to stop this from happening, Yonghap reported.

Divers who had been battling bad weather and fast currents to retrieve bodies over the past three weeks faced better conditions on Wednesday, officials said.

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A civilian diver searching for bodies in the Sewol ferry that sank last month in South Korea has died, authorities say.

Officials said the 53-year-old, known only by his surname Lee, became unconscious and later died in hospital.

The man is the first fatality among divers searching the Sewol ferry, which sank on April 16 with 476 people on board.

Only 174 people survived, with many trapped inside the vessel. So far the disaster has claimed 262 lives, with 40 others missing.

South Korea state news agency Yonhap reported that the man was a veteran crew member of Undine Marine Industries, which specializes in maritime engineering and rescue work.

A civilian diver searching for bodies in the Sewol ferry that sank last month in South Korea has died

A civilian diver searching for bodies in the Sewol ferry that sank last month in South Korea has died

He had lost consciousness shortly after diving into waters 25m deep in the early hours of Tuesday.

Fellow divers lost communication with him five minutes into his dive and later pulled him to the surface. It was his first search attempt in the Sewol, according to the authorities.

PM Chung Hong-won has since ordered government officials overseeing the rescue operation to thoroughly check divers’ health conditions.

Divers have been battling bad weather and fast currents to retrieve bodies over the past three weeks. Inside the ferry, they must also navigate floating debris and the maze of corridors, reports say.

Yonhap said another civilian diver, aged 31, fell unconscious last week after diving four times before daybreak.

Several others have also been treated at hyperbaric oxygen therapy centers.

Authorities said divers were now working their way to the last three unopened rooms next to a snack bar on the ferry’s third floor.

But they did not expect to find many bodies there as they were not occupied by the high school students who were the majority of the passengers, a spokesman said. Divers would also recheck areas previously searched.

Earlier this week, workers put out more nets around the site to prevent bodies floating away.

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The confirmed death toll from the Sewol ferry disaster has reached 244, South Korean officials have announced.

Meanwhile President Park Geun-hye met relatives of those on board.

Park Geun-hye told family members that those responsible for the ferry sinking on April 16 would be “punished severely”.

The confirmed death toll from the Sewol ferry disaster has reached 244

The confirmed death toll from the Sewol ferry disaster has reached 244 (photo AP)

The Sewol ferry had 476 passengers on board when it sank – 174 were rescued, and 58 remain unaccounted for.

Prosecutors say the ferry owner ignored safety warnings and allowed the ship to be overloaded.

Park Geun-hye visited Jindo island, close to where the ship sank, on Sunday. It was her second meeting with the family members.

Speaking to relatives, the president said: “I feel a sense of unlimited responsibility… it is heart-rending to imagine how you must be feeling.”

“A thorough investigation will be conducted to find those who were responsible and criminally at fault… and they will be punished severely,” she added.

Authorities are investigating whether the ship sank from overloading and changes in the structure of the ship.

Anger has also been directed at the ship’s captain and crew members, who delayed giving evacuation orders.

Last week, South Korean PM Chung Hong-won resigned amid criticism of the government’s handling of the disaster.

Divers have been navigating the sunken ship in an attempt to retrieve the remaining bodies. However, the search has been hampered by strong currents, debris, and poor visibility.

Several divers were suffering from decompression sickness, Yonhap news agency reported on Friday.

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Chonghaejin Marine, the owner of the sunken South Korean ferry, ignored an off-duty captain’s warnings about the ship’s stability, prosecutors have said.

They say the captain warned that the Sewol ferry should not carry too much cargo after it was refurbished. Two company officials have been detained.

The vessel was carrying three times its recommended maximum cargo weight.

The Sewol ferry had 476 passengers on board when it sank on April 16 – 174 were rescued. More than 200 bodies have been found.

Most of those on board were high school students. About 90 people are still missing and divers are searching for them off South Korea’s southern coast near Jindo.

The refurbishment carried out by owners Chonghaejin Marine took place between October 2012 and February last year, shortly after the company purchased the Sewol ferry.

Sewol ferry’s owner Chonghaejin Marine ignored an off-duty captain's warnings about the ship's stability

Sewol ferry’s owner Chonghaejin Marine ignored an off-duty captain’s warnings about the ship’s stability

They built extra passenger cabins on the third, fourth and fifth decks.

The off-duty captain, named by prosecutors as Shin, had warned the company that this move had altered the 6,825-tonne ship’s balance and undermined its ability to stabilize itself.

Prosecutors said these warnings were brushed aside, according to news agencies.

On top of that, the ferry was carrying more than three times its recommended maximum cargo. It had left the port of Incheon with 3,606 tonnes of freight and cargo.

Investigators are now looking into whether the ship sank from overloading and changes in the structure of the ship, and whether it had enough ballast water to accommodate the extra load.

The ferry’s refurbishment had been approved and met safety standards, but Chonghaejin may have made additional changes afterward, said investigators.

Two Chonghaejin officials have been detained on suspicion of accidental homicide, stemming from professional negligence in connection with the sinking, Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the company’s chief executive officer Kim Han-sik was summoned to the prosecutor’s office in Incheon for questioning.

It has also emerged that the captain who was piloting the Sewol on the day of the accident, Lee Joon-seok, was a substitute for Shin, who was on holiday.

Lee Joon-seok has since been detained with 14 other crew members.

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South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has presented apologies to the families of Sewol ferry disaster’s victims in a televised statement.

Park Geun-hye said that the government had failed to prevent the disaster and bungled its emergency response.

Her apology comes amid ongoing work to retrieve bodies from the sunken hull.

The Sewol ferry sank with 476 people aboard – most of them high school students and teachers – off South Korea on April 16. A total of 174 were rescued.

The remainders have been confirmed dead or missing presumed drowned.

President Park Geun-hye visited the memorial of Sewol ferry disaster

President Park Geun-hye visited the memorial of Sewol ferry disaster

Officials have retrieved almost 200 bodies and divers are continuing to search for those still unaccounted for.

“I don’t know how to apologize for the failure to prevent this accident, and for the insufficient first response,” Park Geun-hye said in the statement.

“I am sorry to the people and heavy-hearted that many precious lives were lost.”

Park Geun-hye’s apology comes amid mounting public anger and criticism over the disaster. Most of those on board were on a trip from Danwon high school in Ansan, south of Seoul.

She had earlier paid her respects at a memorial altar set up near the school. Local media reports said she was heckled by angry family members.

Attention has focused on why so few people were evacuated from the stricken vessel, and on the possibly negligence of the captain and crew.

On Sunday, South Korean PM Chung Hong-won offered his resignation over the disaster.

In her statement, Park Geun-hye said she would create a new government agency to handle large-scale accidents, Yonhap news agency reported.

The national safety ministry would also be placed under the prime minister’s office, the agency said.

It is not yet clear what caused the incident but investigations are focusing on whether modifications made to the vessel made it more unstable.

The Sewol ferry was also reported to be carrying cargo more than three times its approved amount.

All 15 crew members involved in the navigation of the ferry are now in custody, facing criminal negligence charges.

New pictures emerged on Monday that showed ferry captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, wearing a sweater and underpants, being rescued from the tilting vessel.

He was not at the helm when the ship got into trouble – instead the vessel was being steered by a third mate.

Another focus of the investigation is why passengers were told to remain in their cabins as the ship listed.

Divers have found many bodies of passengers, wearing life jackets, in cabins and public areas inside the ship.

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South Korea’s PM Chung Hong-won has resigned amid criticism of the government’s handling of the sinking of the Sewol ferry.

In a statement, a sombre Chung Hong-won said the “cries of the families of those missing still keep me up at night”.

The Sewol ferry with 476 people on board – most of them students and teachers – sank off South Korea on April 16.

Officials have confirmed 187 died, but scores are missing presumed drowned.

Furious relatives have repeatedly criticized what they see as the slowness of the recovery operation.

“The right thing for me to do is to take responsibility and resign as a person who is in charge of the cabinet,” Chung Hong-won said in a brief televised statement.

“On behalf of the government, I apologize for many problems from the prevention of the accident to the early handling of the disaster.”

South Korea’s PM Chung Hong-won has resigned amid criticism of the government's handling of the sinking of the Sewol ferry

South Korea’s PM Chung Hong-won has resigned amid criticism of the government’s handling of the sinking of the Sewol ferry

He added: “There have been so many varieties of irregularities that have continued in every corner of our society and practices that have gone wrong. I hope these deep-rooted evils get corrected this time and this kind of accident never happens again.”

There was no immediate word from President Park Geun-hye about whether she would accept Chung Hong-won’s resignation.

An opposition party spokesman described it as “thoroughly irresponsible” and a “cowardly evasion” of responsibility.

The day after the disaster, Chung Hong-won was booed and someone threw a water bottle at him when he visited grieving parents.

Divers were battling atrocious weather conditions on Sunday as they tried to retrieve more bodies trapped in the sunken ferry.

A coastguard spokesman said heavy seas whipped up by strong winds were badly complicating recovery efforts.

“The situation is very difficult due to the weather, but we are continuing search efforts, using the occasional calmer periods,” the spokesman said, adding that 93 divers would take part in Sunday’s operation.

All 15 crew members involved in the navigation of the ferry are now in custody, facing criminal negligence charges.

On Friday, divers found 48 bodies of students wearing lifejackets in a single room on the vessel meant to accommodate just over 30 people.

The group was crammed into a dormitory and all were wearing lifejackets, a South Korean Navy officer said.

The presence of so many victims in the cabin suggested many had run into the room when the ship tilted, correspondents said.

The reason for the disaster is still unclear.

But prosecutors are said to be investigating whether modifications made to the ferry made it more unstable.

Factors under consideration include a turn made at about the time the ship began to list, as well as wind, ocean currents and the freight it was carrying.

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South Korean authorities have arrested all 15 crew members involved in the navigation of the ill-fated Sewol passenger ferry.

They are all facing criminal negligence charges.

The prosecution requested arrest warrants for four additional crew members. Eleven others, including the captain, had been detained earlier.

Sewol ferry with 476 people on board sank off South Korea on April 16.

Divers have recovered 183 bodies, but scores are missing presumed drowned.

Many of the victims were students and teachers from Danwon high school, south of Seoul.

Sewol ferry with 476 people on board sank off South Korea on April 16.

Sewol ferry with 476 people on board sank off South Korea on April 16.

The ferry sank on a trip from the port of Incheon to the island of Jeju.

In the latest move on Saturday, the arrests warrants were issued for two helmsmen and two members of the steering crew.

Prosecutor Yang Jung-jin, of the joint investigation team, said the four crew members were taken into custody late on Friday, the Associated Press reported.

The 15 crew members are facing charges of criminal negligence and of failing to help passengers, the prosecution says.

On Friday, divers found 48 bodies of students wearing lifejackets in a single room on the vessel meant to accommodate just over 30 people.

The group was crammed into a dormitory and all were wearing lifejackets, a South Korean Navy officer said.

The presence of so many victims in the cabin suggested many had run into the room when the ship tilted, correspondents said.

The head of the operation to retrieve bodies said he had “no idea” how long the ship search would take.

The South Korean government has said it is “mobilizing all available resources” towards the rescue effort.

The prosecutors are also said to be investigating whether modifications made to the ferry made it more unstable.

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South Korean rescue teams found 48 bodies in a single cabin on the Sewol ferry meant to accommodate 38 people, officials say.

The group was crammed into a dormitory and all were wearing lifejackets, a South Korean Navy officer said.

Some 183 bodies have been recovered from the Sewol, but scores of people are missing, presumed drowned.

The head of the operation to retrieve bodies said on Friday he had “no idea” how long the ship search would take.

South Korean rescue teams found 48 bodies in a single cabin on the Sewol ferry meant to accommodate 38 people

South Korean rescue teams found 48 bodies in a single cabin on the Sewol ferry meant to accommodate 38 people (photo Yonhap/AP)

There were 476 people on board, with many trapped inside as the ferry listed and sank within two hours of distress signals being sent. A total of 174 passengers were rescued.

Many of those who died or are presumed dead were students and teachers from Danwon high school, south of Seoul.

Furious relatives attacked the speed of the recovery operation on Friday in a confrontation with the fisheries minister and the coastguard chief.

In a briefing to reporters on the southern island of Jindo, Navy Captain Kim Jin-Hwang described the difficult conditions that the divers were facing.

He said one group had found the single dormitory room filled with the bodies of 48 students wearing lifejackets. The presence of so many victims in the cabin suggested many had run into the room when the ship tilted, correspondents said.

Retrieving the bodies was far harder than finding them, he said, with divers unable to spend much longer than 10 minutes inside the ship at a time.

Officials said rescuers are retrieving around 30 bodies a day but the bereaved families have demanded that all remaining bodies are removed from the ferry before the weekend.

Search officials said just 35 of the 111 rooms had been searched so far.

The South Korean government says it is “mobilizing all available resources” towards the rescue effort but bad weather and stronger currents due on Saturday and Sunday are expected to hamper their efforts.

Prosecutors are said to be investigating whether modifications made to the ferry made it more unstable.

Factors under consideration include a turn made around the time the ship began to list, as well as wind, ocean currents and the freight it was carrying.

Reports have emerged indicating that the ship’s sleeping cabins were refitted some time between 2012 and 2013, which experts say may have inadvertently affected the balance of the boat.

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Relatives of South Korean passengers still missing from the Sewol ferry disaster have angrily confronted the fisheries minister and the coastguard chief.

The officials have been surrounded by angry family members in a tent on Jindo island where the rescue operation is being co-ordinated.

They spent all of Thursday night trying to explain the search effort.

At least 183 passengers have been confirmed dead, with 121 still missing in Sewol ferry disaster.

There were 476 people on board, with many trapped inside as the ferry listed and sank within two hours of distress signals being sent. A total of 174 passengers were rescued.

Many of those who died or are presumed dead were students and teachers from Danwon high school, south of Seoul.

Families of passengers still missing from the Sewol ferry disaster have confronted the fisheries minister and the coastguard chief

Families of passengers still missing from the Sewol ferry disaster have confronted the fisheries minister and the coastguard chief (photo AFP)

On a visit to Seoul on Friday, President Barack Obama expressed his condolences for South Korea’s “incredible loss” and offered America’s solidarity.

“I can only imagine what the parents are going through at the moment – the incredible heartache,” Barack Obama said.

Prosecutors are said to be investigating whether modifications made to the ferry made it more unstable.

Factors under consideration include a turn made around the time the ship began to list, as well as wind, ocean currents and the freight it was carrying.

Reports have emerged indicating that the ship’s sleeping cabins were refitted some time between 2012 and 2013, which experts say may have inadvertently affected the balance of the boat.

Investigators on Friday said that life rafts and escape chutes on a sister ship to a sunken ferry were not working properly.

With bad weather and stronger currents expected at the weekend the government says that it is “mobilizing all available resources” towards the rescue effort.

It says that about 88 expert divers are searching for survivors on cabins on the third and fourth decks,

The authorities say that hundreds of civilian divers who are also at the scene are slowing down the rescue operation and will no longer be allowed participate.

Local media reports say that divers who have succeeded in reaching the wreck are exhausted, with some needing treatment for decompression sickness after swimming in cold, dark waters for long hours.

As the chances of finding survivors recedes, relatives have become increasingly angry with what they see as the slow pace of the rescue operation.

In addition to their overnight confrontation of the fisheries minister and the coastguard chief, another top official was attacked on Thursday by relatives who accused him of lying about the rescue effort.

Deputy coastguard head Choi Sang-Hwan was surrounded by about 20 relatives who stormed his temporary office at Jindo port, correspondents say.

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South Korea’s Danwon high school devastated by the loss of many of its students in Sewol ferry disaster last week has started to hold classes again.

More than 300 students from Danwon high school, located south of Seoul, were on the Sewol ferry when it capsized.

Most of the students are dead, or missing inside the sunken hull.

The ferry sank last week as it sailed from Incheon to Jeju Island. More than 170 people have been confirmed dead, as search teams work to recover bodies.

South Korea's Danwon high school devastated by the loss of many of its students in Sewol ferry disaster last week has started to hold classes again

South Korea’s Danwon high school devastated by the loss of many of its students in Sewol ferry disaster last week has started to hold classes again (photo EPA)

There were 476 people on board, with many trapped inside as the ferry listed and sank within two hours of distress signals being sent. A total of 174 passengers were rescued.

Almost 250 students and teachers from Danwon have been confirmed dead or are presumed to have died, Reuters news agency says.

Most of the students who survived the disaster remain in hospital and it is not clear when they will return to school.

Final year students returned to Danwon school on Thursday, however. Dozens of counselors have been brought in to help with the trauma that many of the students are expected to face.

Over the past week, Danwon high school has become a memorial site – flowers and messages piling up outside the gates and funeral rites taking place in classrooms.

Messages posted in classrooms reportedly included: “If I see you again, I’ll tell you I love you, because I haven’t said it to you enough.”

Many in South Korea are worried about what this tragedy will mean for the children – the missing faces in Danwon’s classrooms and the knowledge of how fallible their protectors can be, our correspondent adds.

On Wednesday, an emotional memorial service took place near the school, with friends and family members laying flowers in front of photographs of some of those who died.

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Four more crew members from Sewol ferry that sank last week have been arrested by the South Korean authorities, bringing the total number detained to 11.

Police have also raided offices of companies linked to the ferry’s owners.

Search teams are continuing to recover bodies from the submerged hull of the passenger ferry.

One survivor has described taking the agonizing decision to save himself as the ship capsized and water washed away students he was trying to rescue.

The number of people known to have died in the accident has reached 150, with another 152 still missing, most of them teenage children from a single school in Ansan, outside the capital Seoul.

An emotional memorial service took place near the school on Wednesday, with friends and family members laying flowers in front of photographs of some of those who died.

The government is under strong public pressure to find out why the ferry capsized.

Four more crew members from Sewol ferry have been arrested, bringing the total number detained to 11

Four more crew members from Sewol ferry have been arrested, bringing the total number detained to 11 (photo EPA)

Twenty-two of the 29 members of the ferry’s crew survived and prosecutors say the 11 arrested were on the bridge when the ship listed and sank within two hours of distress signals being sent.

Companies associated with Incheon-based Chonghaejin Marine Company, which owned the 6,825-tonne Sewol ferry, have also been raided by police as part of the investigation.

Authorities have issued 30-day travel bans to more than 70 executives connected with Chonghaejin and its affiliates while they are investigated on possible charges ranging from criminal negligence to embezzlement.

“We will also make efforts to retrieve profits made out of criminal acts and track down hidden assets to support financial compensations for [potential] lawsuits by families of the victims and the missing,” a prosecutor told AFP.

Survivors have spoken of the struggle to save the hundreds of passengers trapped below the tilting decks as cargo containers toppled into the sea.

Reports suggest that passengers were told to remain in their rooms and cabins as the ship listed, amid confusion on the bridge over whether to order them to abandon ship.

The first distress call from the sinking ferry was made from a mobile phone by a boy with a shaking voice, officials told Reuters.

His plea for help was followed by about 20 other emergency calls from children on board the ship.

A crew member quoted by local media said that attempts to launch lifeboats were unsuccessful because the ship was listing too severely. Only two of the vessel’s 46 lifeboats were reported to have been deployed.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has condemned the conduct of some of the crew, calling it “akin to murder”.

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The confirmed death toll of Sewol ferry disaster has passed 100, as divers recovered more bodies from the sunken hull.

A total of 108 people are now known to have died, but another 194 are missing, presumed trapped inside the vessel.

Last week, the South Korean ferry tipped over and sank within two hours, but it is not yet clear why.

Seven crew members have been detained, however, amid intense criticism of their failure to evacuate all passengers as the ship listed.

Passengers were told to remain in rooms and cabins, reports suggest, amid confusion on the bridge over whether to order them to abandon ship.

A total of 108 people are now known to have died in the Sewol ferry disaster, but another 194 are missing, presumed trapped inside the vessel

A total of 108 people are now known to have died in the Sewol ferry disaster, but another 194 are missing, presumed trapped inside the vessel (photo AP)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday condemned the conduct of some of the crew, calling it “akin to murder”.

A total of 174 passengers were rescued from the Sewol, which capsized as it sailed from Incheon in the north-west to the southern island of Jeju.

But there were 476 people on board, including 339 children and teachers on a school trip. Many were trapped inside the ship as it listed to one side and then sank.

Military divers have been searching the ship for those who died. Bodies of victims are being brought back to the port on Jindo island at a steady rate now.

Divers have managed to reach many of the cabins in the hull of the upturned ferry, although they are still trying to get into the ship’s restaurant, where they believe many of the passengers were trapped.

They have also loaded an underwater robot at the port this morning, ready to be used in the operation to bring the hull to the surface.

Rescue officials say they will keep searching with divers for another two days, but that the families of the victims have agreed that the salvage operation can begin after that.

Investigations are focusing on whether the ferry took too sharp a turn – perhaps destabilizing the vessel – before it started listing and whether an earlier evacuation order could have saved lives.

Sewol’s Captain Lee Joon-seok was not on the bridge when the ferry began listing. It was being steered by a third mate who had never navigated the waters where the accident occurred, prosecutors say.

Captain Lee Joon-seok and two other crew members have been charged with negligence of duty and violation of maritime law. Four more crew members were detained on Monday.

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South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has condemned the conduct of some of the crew of the Sewol ferry that sank last week, calling it “akin to murder”.

Park Geun-hye said that those to blame would have to take “criminal and civil” responsibility for their actions.

Divers are continuing to recover bodies from the ferry, as they gain access to more of the submerged hull.

The death toll now stands at 64, with 238 people still missing, most of them students from a school near Seoul.

Bodies are being brought two or three at a time back to Jindo, a southern island close to where the ferry sank.

Police, meanwhile, have been given access to hundreds of messages sent by passengers and crew so they can construct a detailed chronology of the ferry’s last hour.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye met the families of the Sewol ferry missing passengers

South Korean President Park Geun-hye met the families of the Sewol ferry missing passengers

Park Geun-hye, whose government has faced criticism over its initial response to the disaster, told aides that the actions of the captain and some of the crew “were utterly incomprehensible, unacceptable and tantamount to murder”, the presidential office said.

A total of 174 passengers were rescued from the Sewol, which capsized as it sailed from Incheon in the north-west to the southern island of Jeju.

But there were 476 people on board – including 339 children and teachers on a school trip. Many were trapped inside the ship as it listed to one side and then sank.

Investigations are focusing on whether the vessel took too sharp a turn – perhaps destabilizing the vessel – before it started listing and whether an earlier evacuation order could have saved lives.

Details of the panic and indecision on the bridge emerged on Sunday, when the coastguard released a transcript of the last communications between the crew and controllers.

In the transcript, a crew member repeatedly asks if vessels are on hand to rescue passengers if evacuation is ordered.

Sewol captain, Lee Joon-seok, has said he delayed the move for fear people would drift away.

Lee Joon-seok, 69, was not on the bridge when the ferry began listing. It was steered by a third mate who had never navigated the waters where the accident occurred, prosecutors said on Saturday.

Sewol captain and two other crew members have been charged with negligence of duty and violation of maritime law.

Four more crew members were reported to have been detained on Monday over allegations they failed to protect passengers.

It has since emerged that Lee Joon-seok appeared in a promotional video for the journey four years ago describing the ferry journey as safe as long as the passengers followed the crew’s instructions.

Over the weekend, there were angry confrontations between relatives of those on board and police, after a group began a protest march.

The relatives say they want more information both about what happened and about how soon the remains of their loved ones can be recovered.

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The transcript of the last communications between South Korean ferry that sank on Wednesday and traffic services reveal panic and indecision by the crew.

In the newly released transcript, a crew member repeatedly asks if there were vessels on hand to rescue passengers if evacuation was ordered.

The captain has said he delayed the move for fear people would drift away.

After three days, divers have now entered the ferry and retrieved 26 bodies, bringing the death toll to 58.

However, another 244 people are still missing. Some 174 passengers were rescued.

The Sewol capsized during a journey from Incheon in the north-west to the southern island of Jeju. There were 476 people on board – including 339 children and teachers on a school trip,

Investigations are focusing on whether the vessel took too sharp a turn before it started listing and whether an earlier evacuation order could have saved lives.

Some experts believe the turn could have dislodged heavy cargo and destabilized the vessel.

Messages and phone calls from those inside paint a picture of people trapped in crowded corridors, unable to escape the sharply-listing ferry.

Sewol ferry capsized during a journey from Incheon in the north-west to the southern island of Jeju

Sewol ferry capsized during a journey from Incheon in the north-west to the southern island of Jeju

Details of the panic on the bridge emerged on Sunday, when the coastguard released a transcript of the last communications between the crew and controllers.

At 09:24 – 29 minutes after the Sewol issued its first distress call – a controller says: “Please go out and let the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing.”

The unidentified crew member says: “If this ferry evacuates passengers, will you be able to rescue them?”

“At least make them wear life rings and make them escape,” the controller from the Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Centre replies.

As he continues to urge the crew to prepare for evacuation, the crew member twice asks if passengers would be “rescued straight away”.

It was not until 09:37 – a few seconds before the last communication – that it became clear to controllers that evacuation had been ordered.

On Saturday the captain, Lee Joon-seok, appeared on TV saying: “I bow my head in apology to the families of the victims.

“The current was very strong, the 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.”

Lee Joon-seok, 69, was not on the bridge when the ferry began listing. It was steered inexperienced by a third mate who had never navigated the waters where the accident occurred, prosecutors said on Saturday.

The captain and two other crew members have been charged with negligence of duty and violation of maritime law.

Since the capsize, many of the relatives of those on board have been on Jindo island, near the site of the accident. Some have protested over the rescue operation.

Boats carrying 13 of the recently retrieved bodies arrived at Paengmok Port on Jindo on Sunday.

About 200 ships, 34 aircraft and 600 divers have been taking part in the search operation. Fishing boats with powerful lights have been brought in to help the divers operate at night.

But the currents are still strong and the visibility remains challenging.

Sewol communications excerpt:

Controller: “Please go out and let the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing.”

Crew member: “If this ferry evacuates passengers, will you be able to rescue them?”

Controller: “At least make them wear life rings and make them escape.”

Crew member: “If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?”

Controller: “Don’t let them go bare. At least make them wear life rings and make them escape… We don’t know the situation very well. The captain should make the final decision and decide whether you’re going to evacuate passengers or not.”

Crew member: “I’m not talking about that. I asked, if they evacuate now, can they be rescued right away?”

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Families of passengers on sunken South Korean ferry Sewol have protested angrily over the rescue operation.

Police stopped up to 100 people trying to leave Jindo island intending to march to Seoul.

After more than three days, divers have now finally entered the ferry, retrieving 22 bodies and bringing the death toll to 54.

However, another 248 people are still missing from the Sewol ferry, which sank on Wednesday.

Some 174 passengers were rescued.

Since the capsize, many of the relatives of those on board have been on Jindo, in the south-west of the country.

Hundreds have been camping at a gymnasium on the island, awaiting news from the rescue operation.

Scuffles broke out when some family members tried to cross a bridge to the mainland, reportedly to march on the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, some 260 miles to the north.

Relatives are anxious for the bodies to be retrieved before they decompose.

Families of passengers on sunken South Korean ferry Sewol have protested angrily over the rescue operation

Families of passengers on sunken South Korean ferry Sewol have protested angrily over the rescue operation

Even the prime minister came down to try to dissuade the protesters from marching on Seoul, with officials worried that the controversy could turn into a national political issue and harm the government.

About 200 ships, 34 aircraft and 600 divers have been taking part in the search operation.

Squid fishing boats with powerful lights have been brought in to help the divers operate at night.

But the currents are still strong and the visibility remains challenging.

Coastguard official Koh Myung-seok told a briefing that divers had discovered a number of routes into the ferry, and found bodies in different locations.

Captain Lee Joon-seok and two other crew members are in custody and have been charged with negligence of duty and violation of maritime law.

Officials said on Saturday that the ferry was being steered by an inexperienced third mate in unfamiliar waters when it sank.

Lee Joon-seok, 69, was not initially on the bridge when the ship ran into trouble.

The Sewol, carrying 476 passengers and crew, capsized during a journey from the port of Incheon in the north-west to the southern holiday island of Jeju.

Investigations are focusing on a sharp turn the vessel took before it started listing and whether an evacuation order could have saved lives.

Some experts believe the ship’s tight turn could have dislodged heavy cargo and destabilized the vessel, while others suggest the sinking could have been caused by a collision with a rock.

Messages and phone calls from those inside painted a picture of people trapped in crowded corridors, unable to escape the sharply-listing ferry.

Footage from the ship appeared to show instructions from crew members for passengers to remain on board even as it tilted dramatically to one side.

Some 350 of those on board were students from Danwon High School in Ansan, a suburb of Seoul, who were on a school outing when the ferry sank.

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Lee Joon-seok, the captain of South Korean ferry Sewol that sank this week, said he delayed giving evacuation orders because he feared passengers would “drift away”.

Lee Joon-seok, 69, was arrested with two crew members on Friday.

Divers saw three bodies in the ship on Saturday but were not able to retrieve them. The number of missing stands at 270 with 32 now confirmed dead, after three bodies were found in the water.

The official leading the rescue said it “may last one or two months.”

Some 174 passengers were rescued, but poor visibility and strong currents are making the search – now in its fourth day – difficult.

Captain Lee Joon-seok faces charges including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law after being criticized for not giving orders to evacuate soon enough.

Meanwhile relatives of the victims have begun providing DNA samples to help identify bodies recovered from the wreckage.

Investigations are focusing on a sharp turn the vessel took before it started listing and whether an evacuation order could have saved lives.

Sewol’s Captain Lee Joon-seok was arrested with two crew members

Sewol’s Captain Lee Joon-seok was arrested with two crew members (photo AP)

The ferry Sewol was sailing from Incheon, in the north-west, to the southern resort island of Jeju. It capsized and sank within two hours.

Lee Joon-seok, who had already been questioned by police, was shown on television on Saturday after his arrest.

“I am sorry to the people of South Korea for causing a disturbance and I bow my head in apology to the families of the victims,” he said.

“I gave instructions regarding the route, then I briefly went to the bedroom and then [the sinking] happened.

“The current was very strong, the 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,” he said.

He added that rescue boats had not arrived at the time of capsizing.

The helmsman at the time, Cho Joon-ki, was also among those arrested. He said that the ship reacted differently to what he had expected.

“There was a mistake on my behalf as well but the steering [gear of the ship] turned further than it was supposed to,” he told reporters.

According to documents seen by the Associated Press news agency, maritime safety officials recommended a full evacuation of the ship five minutes after a distress call was raised.

But a crew member told the agency that it took the captain 30 minutes to issue the order.

Some experts believe the ship’s tight turn could have dislodged heavy cargo and destabilized the vessel, while others suggest the sinking could have been caused by a collision with a rock.

Messages and phone calls from those inside painted a picture of people trapped in crowded corridors, unable to escape the sharply-listing ferry.

Officials say air has been pumped into the ship to aid any people trapped inside and to help refloat the vessel.

The South Korean coastguard said on Saturday that a civilian diver had seen three bodies through a window in the fourth floor of the ship.

The diver was not able to retrieve the bodies because of floating objects and time restrictions on diving, the coastguard said.

But three other bodies found in the water near the wreck were recovered, bringing the number of confirmed dead to 32.

Choi Sang-hwan, deputy director of the national coastguard, said nets would be placed around the sunken ferry to prevent any bodies drifting away.

Some 350 of those on board were students from Danwon High School in Ansan, a suburb of Seoul, who were on a school outing when the ferry sank.

Hundreds of relatives of those on board have been camping at a gymnasium on Jindo island near the scene of the disaster.

Asked how long the rescue operation was likely to continue, Shin Won-Nam, the head of the Emergency Management Centre, told reporters that it could take weeks, if not months.

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