Divers finally found a way into the sunken South Korean ferry Sunday, recovering more than a dozen bodies from inside the vessel.
More than 250 people remain missing after the Sewol ferry sank off South Korea's southern coast Wednesday with 476 people on board, including 323 students from Danwon High School in Ansan. The death toll now stands at 52.
Most of the missing are high school students on a holiday trip, and anguished families are furious with the pace of rescue efforts. The 16- and 17-year-old students make up only 75 of the 174 survivors, and about 225 of the missing. At least 23 of those confirmed dead are students, according to coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in.
Beginning late Saturday and continuing into Sunday, multiple teams of divers have found various routes into the ferry, discovering bodies in different spots, coast guard official Koh Myung-seok said at a briefing. Thirteen bodies have been found in the ship, while six other bodies were found floating outside, said coast guard official Kim Jin-cheol.
Divers, who once pumped air into the ship in the slim hope that survivors were inside, have yet to find anyone alive.
About 560 divers will search on Sunday while 204 Navy, Coast Guard and private vessels and 34 aircraft will scour the area, officials said. Diving operations are expected to pick up pace as five underwater routes guiding divers to the wreck have been set up, officials told Yonhap news agency.
Meanwhile, on an island near the submerged ferry, about 200 police in neon jackets blocked about 100 relatives of missing passengers who'd been walking on a main road in an effort, they said, to travel to the presidential Blue House in Seoul to voice their complaints to the president.
"We want an answer from the person in charge about why orders are not going through and nothing is being done," Lee Woon-geun, father of missing passenger Lee Jung-in, 17, said. "They are clearly lying and kicking the responsibility to others."
Relatives are desperate to retrieve bodies before they decompose beyond recognition, Lee said.
"After four or five days the body starts to decay. When it's decayed, if you try to hold a hand it might fall off," he said. "I miss my son. I'm really afraid I might not get to find his body."
The captain of the vessel, 68-year-old Lee Joon-seok, was arrested early Saturday on five counts of charges including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law. Two crewmembers were also arrested, including a mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.
Lee, speaking to reporters Saturday morning as he left the Mokpo Branch of Gwangju District Court to be jailed, defended his much-criticized decision to wait about 30 minutes before ordering an evacuation.
"At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties," Lee said. "The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats nearby at that time."
Ferry operator, Chonghaejin Marine Co., has had issues in the past, Yonhap reported. Three weeks before the Sewol's sinking, one of Chonghaejin's passenger ships collided with a fishing boat in the Yellow Sea, Yonhap reports. No one was injured. In the last few years, Chonghaejin Marine ships have also had generator and engine troubles, Yonhap reported.