Jindo, South Korea: Divers retrieved three more bodies from the ferry wreckage on Saturday as relatives of the missing passengers were asked to provide DNA samples.
According to the South Korean coast guard, the divers searching in the murky waters, successfully broke a window to enter the cabin and retrieve the bodies.
It came as medical staff collected DNA samples from relatives inside a tent in Jindo.
People sleep at a gymnasium used as a gathering point for relatives of the missing passengers. Photo: AFP
The ferry sank on Wednesday, killing at least 36 people, with 266 still missing, presumed dead in a watery grave.
Many of those missing were from Danwon high school outside Seoul.
On Wednesday morning, 52-year-old Kang Min-gyu, the deputy headmaster of Danwon high school outside Seoul, was found hanging from a tree, with a note in his wallet expressing his grief at the deaths of his students.
A navy diver enters the waters to search for passengers from the capsized ferry. Photo: AFP
He had been having breakfast with his teenage charges in the cafeteria of the Sewol ferry as it made its way to the holiday island of Jeju.
His text messages back to his colleagues at the school suggest he did everything by the book.
"Water is rushing in," he wrote at 8.55am, shortly after the distress call was first made. "The boat is leaning 15 degrees, the coastguard is here, all the students have their life jackets on," he wrote at 9.11am.
Lee Jun-seok, the captain of the Sewol, was arrested and is likely to face criminal charges. Photo: Reuters
"Surviving alone is too painful while 200 remain unaccounted for. I take full responsibility. I pushed ahead with the school trip," his note said. "I will once again become a teacher in the afterlife for my students whose bodies have not been discovered."
As he was being cremated, Capt. Lee Joon Seok, 69, was charged with abandoning his boat, negligence, causing bodily injury, not seeking rescue from other ships and violating "seamen's law," state media reported.
Captain Lee wasn't on the bridge at the time of the incident, and if convicted faces from five years to life in prison.
A relative weeps as she waits for missing passengers of the sunken ferry. Photo: Getty Images
He appeared before reporters in handcuffs, and if convicted faces from five years to life in prison.
"Mr. Lee is charged with causing the Sewol ship to sink by failing to slow down while sailing the narrow route and making (a) turn excessively," prosecutor Lee Bong-chang told the semiofficial Yonhap news agency.
"Lee is also charged with failing to do the right thing to guide the passengers to escape and thereby leading to their death or injury."
Prosecutors revealed that a junior female third mate, surnamed Park, was at the vessel's helm attempting to navigate heavy currents when the tragedy occurred.
She was arrested yesterday also with a technician, Cho, and they face three charges, including accidental homicide and violation of maritime laws.
The captain and two crew members "didn't do what they were supposed to do," prosecutor Lee Bong Chang said.
"They should have also sailed more carefully without making sharp turns," he said, adding that the investigation is still at an early stage.
"The announcements to stay on the vessel were issued because rescue boats hadn't yet arrived," Lee, the captain, told reporters in Mokpo as he was taken into custody, flanked by the two crew members. The comments were broadcast on YTN TV.
"The currents were extremely fast. The water was cold," he said. "Even if life jackets were worn, if we abandon the ship without a clear judgment you can be dragged far away. I judged that there would be many complications.
Meanwhile the news of the deputy headmaster's death caused barely a ripple inside the Jindo gymnasium, where Mr Kang had stayed with hundreds of parents, waiting for news from the rescue operation.
As hope has faded, the gymnasium has become a cauldron of anger and despair. Yesterday, medical staff darted around the hall, attending to parents convulsing and screaming in grief. At least 20 parents have had treatment for shock at the local hospital, a doctor said.
Relatives were quick to blame Mr Kang and other teachers for the fate of their children. "I saw him on Thursday afternoon around 4pm," said Kwon Hyeok-ryung, 55, whose brother-in-law was also a teacher at the school, but is still missing. "He felt a lot of responsibility and he was under a lot of pressure. The parents blamed him for surviving. They screamed, 'How can you be a teacher and let your students die? How can you live with yourself?' They were grabbing him, trying to beat him."
About an hour after Mr Kwon saw Mr Kang, he walked out of the gymnasium and disappeared. A police search began during the night.
Roughly 200 civilian divers, many of them military veterans, have arrived at the wharf to volunteer to help the operation. Some teams managed to retrieve bodies trapped in the external areas of the ferry but were forbidden by the navy from going inside in intensely treacherous conditions.
"The visibility is down to seven inches," said Kim Suho, 42, the chief of one civilian dive team. "But that is not the problem. The problem is the currents are swirling inside the ship so that it is impossible to open any doors. And there is a vortex of turbulence under the ship at a depth of 110 feet which sucks divers down."
The civilian and navy divers have succeeded in securing guide ropes around the ship to help them manoeuvre in the darkness and silt within. Last night, Korean media reported that divers had reached the third deck of the ferry, where the ship's cafeteria lies, and the second deck car port and container hold.
High-pressure hoses were also piped into the ship to pump in oxygen, in the faint hope that it might reach survivors trapped in air pockets.
A giant crane arrived at the site to haul the ship out of the water, but the salvage operation will not begin until the parents on the wharf and in the gymnasium have consented and could take months.
"The crane has nothing to do with the rescue," said Mr Kim. "It is just to save the ship, not to save the students. If they lift it, anyone who is alive might die."
At the wharf, lines of ambulances gathered waiting to ferry victims to local hospitals and a makeshift morgue was assembled. As night fell, a huge floodlight was installed to allow parents to inspect the bodies that were expected to emerge before morning.
Progress was so slow, however, that only three bodies were brought back to the wharf during the day's operations. As they were stretchered out, a huddle of parents peered over them to try to identify them, before a woman screamed and buckled. "They found her, they found her," she sobbed, clutching two others for support and standing in the middle of the road in blank horror.
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