World / Asia-Pacific

Death toll of South Korean ferry sinking rises to 33

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-04-19 19:17

Death toll of South Korean ferry sinking rises to 33
South Korean ferry disaster
SEOUL  -- Death toll has kept rising as divers strived to search for possible survivors on Saturday in waters off Jindo Island, the southwestern tip of South Korea, where a ferry carrying 476 passengers capsized on Wednesday.

One more female passenger's body was found Saturday night, sending the total death toll to 33, according to local media reports.

The South Korea Coast Guard told a press briefing earlier that three more bodies were discovered in waters near the site of the accident in the afternoon.

A female passenger's body dressed in life jackets was found at 4:55 p.m. local time Saturday in waters around 100 meters away from the sunken ferry, which carried hundreds of passengers, mostly teenagers.

Another body was discovered at 5:47 pm in nearby waters, with the third body detected at 5:58 pm.

Of the 476 passengers on board, 33 have been confirmed dead, with 269 people still missing. The number of the rescued has been unchanged at 174.

Among the passengers were 325 high school students and 15 teachers on their way for a four-day field trip. The ship departed from South Korea's western port city of Incheon Tuesday night for the southern resort island of Jeju.

Among the rescued, 75 were students from the Danwon High School in Ansan, a Seoul suburb. Eleven students have been confirmed dead, with 239 others still missing.

Coast guard, navy and private divers strived to dive through rapid currents into the hull of the capsized ship, and some private divers found bodies on the fourth floor of the five-story vessel with the naked eye at around 5:50 am, the first discovery within the hull since 6,825-ton passenger ferry Sewol was submerged Wednesday.

The divers saw the bodies inside the cabin and tried to break open the door to retrieve them, but they failed due to limited diving period and floating obstacles. No sound has been heard yet from inside the hull.

The third and fourth floors are composed of passenger cabins, where most of possible survivors may be trapped. There are freight compartments on the second floor and a dining room on the first floor. Divers succeeded in reaching the first and second floors Friday.

Around 87 passengers stayed at the cabins on the third floor, with 353 were put up on the fourth floor and seven on the fifth floor.

For research and rescue operations, 192 rescue ships and 31 airplanes were deployed to the site of the accident Saturday, and divers cleared the passage within the hull to place three guidelines, along which they will follow to rescue possible survivors in the chilly and murky waters.

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