Rescuers accelerated their search operations to find survivors on the sunken ferry Sewol in waters off Korea’s southwestern coast on Friday as grieving families made desperate appeals for more efforts to save their loved ones.
Navy and Coast Guard divers injected air into the ship for possible survivors and installed buoys to keep it from sinking further. They also entered the interior of the ship for the first time since the 6,825-ton vessel capsized on Wednesday, but failed to find survivors.
As of Friday evening, 28 of the total 475 passengers were confirmed dead, while 268 remained unaccounted for. Among the passengers were 325 students of Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, who were on a school trip to Jejudo Island.
The vice principal of the high school, surnamed Kang, was found dead in an apparent suicide in the afternoon.
The police said that Kang apparently hanged himself from a tree on a hill near the gymnasium in Jindo, South Jeolla Province, where a disaster information center was set up for the families of the victims.
In the morning, four massive cranes arrived at the scene of the sinking to support the rescue efforts. Also joining the search were 108 naval ships, 61 civilian ships and 535 personnel including military and civilian divers.
The rescue authorities decided not to salvage the vessel until pulling up all the victims from the ship, as any mistakes in the salvaging process could lead to a loss of air and the bodies in the ship, given the strong tidal currents. The victims’ families had opposed the salvaging.
Announcing an interim result of its probe, an investigation team of prosecutors and police said that the captain of the ferry, surnamed Lee, gave the wheel to an inexperienced third mate before the vessel began sinking.
The investigators planned to seek an arrest warrant on Friday against Lee, who was questioned for the third consecutive day. Lee has been criticized for escaping first while hundreds of the passengers were fighting their way out.