UK & World News

  • 23 April 2014, 17:22

Divers Smashing Ferry Walls To Recover Bodies

Divers have begun ripping through cabin walls of the sunken Sewol ferry off South Korea to recover the remaining bodies.

As the number killed in the disaster rose to 150, police also raided the home of the man whose company operated the ship.

The ferry, carrying hundreds of schoolchildren, sank on April 16 on its way to the holiday island of Jeju. More than 150 people are still missing.

Improving conditions over the weekend helped the grim task of recovering bodies, with divers working for an hour using oxygen lines.

Most victims have now been recovered from the third and fourth floors of the ferry but things are becoming more difficult, said spokesman Koh Myung-seok.

Divers are now having to smash through walls to reach students in cabins on the fourth floor, said Mr Koh.

"We are trained for hostile environments, but it's hard to be brave when we meet bodies in dark water," said one diver, Hwang Dae-sik.

"We have to touch everything with our hands. This is the most gruelling and heartbreaking job of my career."

Of the 476 people on board, 174 were rescued, and the ferry's captain Lee Joon-Seok is facing charges of negligence and failing to secure the safety of the passengers.

The 69-year-old was pictured jumping on to one of the first rescue boats, while hundreds of children remained trapped on the sinking ship.

Other members of the crew have also been detained.

Prosecutors on Wednesday raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, head of Chonghaejin Marine, which operated the Sewol.

They also raided a church that is said to be connected with him, as well as his son's home, according to the Reuters news agency.

It has emerged Mr Yoo was jailed for fraud for four years in the 1990s, and the company's finances have come into the spotlight in recent days.

The cause of the disaster is not yet known but it is thought many lives could have been saved had the captain not delayed the evacuation order.

With little chance now of finding any survivors, it looks set to be South Korea's worst maritime disaster for 21 years.

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