The toll in last week\’s South Korean ferry capsize off the country\’s southwestern coast reached 150 Wednesday as divers searched intensively inside the submerged hull.
Divers are slowly working their way through the third and fourth floors of the Sewol ferry. The boat is submerged upside down in murky waters and surrounded by a strong ocean current.
Coast Guard official Ko Myung-suk said divers will soon be helped by the arrival of high-tech underwater search equipment.
"We\’re planning to mobilize a multi-legged underwater robot and a side scan sonar. This means that we will mobilize various equipment and methods as much as we can, if it is going to help with the rescue operation," said Ko.
More than 150 other passengers are missing and presumed dead, bringing the expected final death toll to around 300. That would make it South Korea\’s worst ferry disaster in two decades.
The ship\’s captain, third mate, and one other crew member were arrested Saturday on charges of deserting their passengers as the ferry was sinking.
The captain, who was one of the first to leave the ship, said he did not order an immediate evacuation because of the ocean\’s strong currents and cold water.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said the actions of the crew were "incomprehensible and unacceptable" and "like murder."
South Korean prosecutors say the ferry was being steered by a 26-year-old third mate who was navigating the area for the first time.
Tracking data shows the ship took a sharp turn while navigating a group of small islands off South Korea\’s southwestern coast.
Authorities have not established the cause of the disaster, but some survivors report hearing a loud impact noise before the vessel tilted and began sinking.
A memorial service for many of the victims is planned Wednesday in Ansan, South Korea, home to many of the high school students on the ship.
Most of the victims were high schools students on their way to a school outing on the resort island of Jeju.