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More Than 180 Killed In South Korea Ferry Disaster

At least 180 people are confirmed dead and nearly 120 others are missing as divers retrieve bodies in the ferry. The ship's captain and 14 other crew members have been arrested.

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The confirmed death toll from the ferry disaster off South Korea rose Saturday to 187 as divers located more bodies in the sunken vessel.

The Associated Press

That number of deaths has sharply increased after divers reached the ship's cafeteria where many passengers were thought to be when the ship began to sink.

South Korea's Prime Minister resigned Saturday and apologized for the government's response.

Pool via Associated Press

Chung Hong-won, the country’s No. 2 ranking official, announced his immediate resignation on national television, and apologized for the government’s response to the ferry disaster that left more than 300 missing or dead.

Divers were able to recover bodies from inside the 6,825-ton vessel that sank off the coast of South Korea April 16, with 475 people aboard.

South Korea Coast Guard / AFP

Divers had previously failed to enter the ferry because of strong currents and bad visibility due to poor weather, according to reports.

North Korea sent its condolences through a telephone hotline at the truce village of Panmunjom on the border between the countries, the Unification Ministry of the South said.

Kcna Kcna / Reuters / Reuters

North Korea's gesture is rare, but is not the first time the countries with an uneasy relationship have sent condolences. North Korea sent condolences in 2003 when an arson attack on a subway killed 198 passengers in South Korea. In 2006, South Korea reciprocated when North Korea suffered catastrophic flood damage.

The first distress call made from the ferry as it began to sink last week came from a boy, not the crew, who used his cell phone to contact emergency services, the coast guard said Tuesday. "Help us. The boat is sinking," he said. His fate unknown.


Lee Jong-eui shows a photograph of his nephew, Nam Hyun-chul, one of the missing passengers aboard the sunken ferry.

The captain of the ferry was arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people. Three other crew members were also arrested.

AP / Yonhap

Lee Joon-seok (center) the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, leaves a court which issued his arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, on April 19. Four additional crew members were detained on April 21 on suspicion of also abandoning the ship.

The reason for the sinking of the ferry still remains a mystery, but investigators are looking into the different possibilities.

AP Photo/Yonhap

The captain was not on the bridge when the ferry started sinking, but instead the third officer was at the helm, who may have ordered a turn that caused the ship to tilt.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday lashed out at the captain and crew. "What the captain and part of the crew did is unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense. Unforgivable, murderous behavior," said Park.

AP Photo/Yonhap, Do Kwang-hwan

Park went on, saying of the sinking, "Legally and ethically, this is an unimaginable act." She accused the captain of contributing to the death toll when he "told the passengers to stay put while they themselves became the first to escape."

Although Park attempted to place the blame primarily on the captain and crew, public criticism of the government's handling of the disaster has been steadily rising. Among many missteps, family members of the missing are most outraged at the government initially reporting that 368 passengers were saved, when in reality only 174 were rescued.

The vice principal of Danwon high school, which had many students aboard the ferry, was found dead on Friday.

Lee Jin-man/Associated Press

Reports said Kang Min-gyu, 52, who had been rescued from the ferry accident, died in an apparent suicide near a gymnasium on Jindo, an island near the accident site.

A colleague of Kang's told The Guardian that the vice principal was overcome with guilt. "As the teacher responsible for the students' safety, he was suffering with serious feelings of guilt," the Korea Herald quoted the teacher as saying. "The families of the victims vented their anger towards him — he was brokenhearted."

The Wall Street Journal reported that Kang left a note behind: "Please hold me responsible for all of this. I pushed for the school excursion. Cremate my body and spread my ashes over the ship sinking site. I may become a teacher again in the afterlife for the students whose bodies have yet to be found."

In addition, the evacuation was delayed for more than 30 minutes after a South Korean transportation official ordered preparations to abandon ship, the Associated Press.

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

The crew reportedly gathered on the bridge and sent a distress call, when the ship was already listing at the critical angle at which a vessel can be brought back to even keel. The ship's captain, Lee Joon-seok, first instructed passengers to put on their life jackets and stay put. Then he ordered the boat be righted twice, failing both times.

After more than half an hour of passengers being told to stay put, the captain ordered the evacuation. Although it is not clear in the chaos of the event that the direction was ever relayed to the passengers.

The ferry's captain and along with two crewmembers were formally arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told reporters Monday that two first mates, one second mate and a chief engineer are also accused of abandoning the ship and have been detained. Out of 29 crewmembers, 20 people, including the captain survived.

Divers have continued the search underwater, although they have had difficulty approaching the submerged hull.

The first bodies recovered were found floating in the ocean, but most of the missing passengers are trapped in the hull.

This footage from YTN News 24 shows the capsized ferry as rescue efforts began.

View this video on YouTube

Some of the 325 students on board the ferry jumped into the sea as the ship went down.

View this video on YouTube

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