Angry relatives clash with police as Korean ferry death toll rises

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Family members of missing passengers who were on the South Korean ferry Sewol, which sank in the sea off Jindo, look on to the see from the port where family members of missing passengers gathered in Jindo April 20, 2014. Photo: Reuters
South Korea. Angry relatives of hundreds of missing inside a sunken South Korean ferry clashed with police as coastguard divers retrieved 22 more bodies from the ship and the official number of dead rose to 54 people.
However, another 248 people are still missing from the Sewol ferry, which sank on Wednesday. Some 174 passengers were rescued.
Since the capsize, many of the relatives of those on board have been on Jindo, in the south-west of the country.
Hundreds have been camping at a gymnasium on the island, awaiting news from the rescue operation.
Scuffles broke out when some family members tried to cross a bridge to the mainland, reportedly to march on the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, some 420km (260 miles) to the north.
Relatives of those still listed as missing, but who are now presumed to be dead, clashed briefly with police when about 100 of them tried to leave the island by a road bridge to the mainland to take their protest to the capital city of Seoul.
Police blocked them and they later turned back.
“Bring me the body,” weeping mother Bae Sun-ok said of her child as she was comforted by two policemen at the bridge.
More than 500 parents of the schoolchildren and relatives of other people missing have spent four days and nights cooped up in a gymnasium in the port city of Jindo, which is the centre of the rescue operations.
Hundreds of divers, including civilian volunteers, have battled strong undercurrents and poor visibility to enter the submerged ferry, which went down Wednesday with 476 people on board off the southwestern island of Jindo. The Coast Guard said divers were first able to smash through a ship\’s window late Saturday to recover the first bodies, in what is expected to be a long and grim recovery operation.
South Korean prosecutors say the 26-year-old third mate left to steer the doomed ferry through a treacherous waterway was navigating the area for the first time when the vessel listed on its side and sank. That disclosure came late Saturday, about 90 hours after the 6,800-ton vessel went down.
Authorities also confirmed Saturday that the ship\’s captain was in his quarters at the time of the sinking, leaving the inexperienced third mate at the helm.
The captain, the third mate and one other crew member were arrested Saturday on charges of deserting their passengers as the ferry was sinking.
South Korea\’s Yonhap news agency says the captain is also suspected of instructing passengers to remain seated, even as the ferry began rolling onto its side and blocking escape routes.
Source: Agencies

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