JINDO, South Korea- The captain was not at the helm of the South Korean ferry that capsized two days ago, investigators said Friday, as anger spread over stalled rescue efforts for hundreds of missing passengers trapped by the submerged vessel.
More than 48 hours after the 6,825-tonne Sewol suddenly listed and then sank, a small of army of more than 500 exhausted divers — battling powerful currents in almost zero visibility — have yet to obtain any access to the ferry’s interior.
The confirmed death toll stood at 28, but the focus of concern remained the 268 people still unaccounted for — hundreds of them children on a high school outing to the southern resort island of Jeju.
The newly recovered bodies were all floating in the water and none had been retrieved from the ship itself, coastguard officials said, as dive teams worked to find a way inside the submerged vessel in the increasingly slim hope of finding survivors trapped in air pockets.
“Two divers are currently injecting oxygen into the ship,” a coastguard official said.
The only visible piece of the ferry, a small stern section of the keel, slipped just below the surface on Friday afternoon.
The weather conditions were challenging, with rain, fog and strong sea swells.
Of the 475 people on board when the Sewol capsized, 179 were rescued, but no new survivors have been found since Wednesday.
Three giant, floating cranes reached the disaster site, but regional coastguard commander Kim Soo-Hyun stressed they would not begin lifting the multi-deck ferry until they were sure there were no survivors inside.