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Arrest warrant sought for captain of capsized South Korean ferry

Officials are seeking an arrest warrant for the captain of the South Korean ferry that capsized Wednesday. Rescuers continue to battle poor weather conditions in their search for more than 260 missing passengers.

South Korean prosecutors sought arrest warrants Friday for the ferry's captain Lee Joon-seok and two other crew members, according to a coast guard official.

In a press conference earlier in the day, prosecutor Park Jae-eok has said that the ferry's

third officer had been in command

when the vessel capsized, not the captain.

In a statement on Thursday Lee said he felt "really sorry for the passengers, victims and their families."

"I feel ashamed," the 69-year-old said.

The cause of the accident is still unknown and investigators have refused to comment on reports that the ferry turned before it listed to port and capsized.

The search continues

More than 48 hours after the passenger ferry sunk off the coast of South Korea, several divers managed to enter the interior of the vessel Friday, a senior coastguard official said.

Search efforts have been hampered by low visibility and strong currents. Officials have confirmed 28 deaths, however that number is expected to rise sharply with 268 people still missing.

Three floating cranes have reached the sight of the ferry but will not be used until officials are sure there are no survivors inside.

The unfolding tragedy was compounded on Friday by the apparent suicide of the vice principal of the high school whose pupils died or are missing in the accident.

Police say the vice principal was found dead on the island of Jindo where rescued passengers have taken shelter. It was not immediately clear if he was one of the people rescued from the ferry.

Of the 475 passengers on board, 325 were second-year students from Danwon High School on a four-day field trip to the island of Jeju.

There are reports that some of the passengers were instructed to remain where they were for up to 40 minutes as the ship listed sharply. Relatives suggest their loved ones may otherwise have had time to reach evacuation points.

hc/mz (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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