The number of confirmed deaths from the sinking of the Sewol ferry in South Korea has risen to 226 after five more bodies were recovered from the submerged ship on Friday. Divers continued trying to locate the bodies of the 72 people who are still missing.
Coast guard and navy divers, along with private divers, will on Friday concentrate on the central and left sections of the fourth and fifth floors of the five-storey ship that have remained unexplored so far, rescue service personnel said. The operations have been hampered by strong sea currents which have also threatened to carry the bodies far away from the site of the sunken ship. One of the bodies recovered early Friday morning appeared in the water about 4 km from the accident site. During high tide, the force of the currents is approximately 40% higher than usual, said the rescue service personnel.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Park Geun-hye declared on Friday that she would once again apologise to the victims of the accident and their families. The leader issued an apology a few days earlier during a cabinet meeting in the face of increasing criticism of the management of the incident by the government.
Nonetheless, the opposition and some sections of the media believe that the apology was forced and without enough formality.
Out of the 476 people aboard the Sewol, 325 were high school students from the city of Ansan in the suburbs of Seoul. The increasing number of funerals of the large number of deceased students in this area could exceed 250 once all the bodies are recovered and identified.
It is believed that the Sewol sank after making a sharp turn that displaced her cargo and vehicles to one side of the ship, thus destabilising it and causing it to tilt. The captain, who has been criticised for delaying the evacuation at the time of the accident, is under arrest for allegedly abandoning the ferry and for neglecting the safety of the passengers.
On Friday, several members of the family that manages the operation of the ship were questioned over corruption charges. They have, however, refused to answer the questions of the public prosecutor due to which an arrest warrant could soon be issued against them.