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article imageDeath toll rises to 61 as searchers enter capsized ferry

By Nathan Salant     Apr 21, 2014 in Travel
Ansan - Divers recovered more than a dozen bodies Sunday from a sunken ferry believed to still contain more than 250 passengers, mostly South Korean high school students on vacation who died Wednesday when the boat they were riding in capsized in the Yellow Sea.
The official death toll now stands at 61, pending the recovery of more bodies, according to the Reuters news service.
Sunday marked the first time divers were able to get inside the sunken Sewol, that witnesses said listed severely before it began sinking off the country's southern coast near Jindo.
"At 11:48 p.m. (Saturday), the joint rescue team broke a glass window and succeeded in getting inside the vessel," South Korea's government said in a written statement, according to Reuters news service.
The ship was carrying 476 passengers, of which 339 were students or teachers at Danwon High School in Ansan, near Seoul, South Korea's capital, on a routine trip to the resort island of Jeju.
One hundred and seventy-four passengers were rescued.
Grief-stricken relatives of the passengers have been staying in a gymnasium in Jindo for the past four days, waiting for news.
But there has been no good news since the ship went down.
The high school's vice principal, Kang Min-gyu, who had been on the ferry but was rescued, committed suicide outside the gymnasium on Friday.
Officials investigating the disaster have theorized that the Sewol made a sharp turn before starting to list and then capsizing, but are not clear as to why.
Investigators are looking into how cargo on board the vessel was stowed, the ship operator's safety record and the actions of the crew, Reuters said.
Three crewmembers, including the captain, Lee Joon-seok, were arrested Saturday and charged with negligence.
Witnesses said the crewmembers left the vessel before most of the passengers and failed to order an evacuation.
Lee told investigators that he feared passengers would drown in the area's strong water currents if they abandoned ship, but did not explain why he left the vessel, Reuters said.
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