All surviving crew members of a sunken South Korean ferry are in custody. On Saturday, bad weather prevented the recovery of any of the more than 100 bodies still missing.
Police arrested two helmsmen and two members of the steering team Saturday, the last of the surviving crew members from the 6,825-ton Sewol shipwreck to be taken into custody. Officials had already arrested the Sewol's captain, Lee Joon-seok, and 10 crew members on charges ranging from criminal negligence to abandoning passengers. Among the passengers were about 325 high school students, 250 of whom are now presumed dead.
The confirmed death toll from the tragedy has continued to grow and on Saturday stood at 187, with 115 people unaccounted for. Officials believe they will find many bodies trapped in the ferry that capsized for unknown reasons on April 16 on a routine voyage to southern Jindo island with 476 people on board. Those rescued number 174, including 22 of the Sewol's 29 crew members.
Many have criticized Lee for delaying the evacuation order until the ferry had begun to list so badly that it made escape almost impossible. Transcripts of radio messages from the ferry seem to show confusion over the ship's evacuation procedures.
The seven surviving crew members not arrested or detained held jobs unrelated to the marine operation of the vessel, such as chef or steward, a prosecutor told the Associated Press news agency. Since the accident, officials have also raided a host of businesses affiliated with the ferry operator, the Chonghaejin Marine Company, as part of an overall probe into corrupt management. The widening investigation has also seen travel bans put on eight current and former executives of the Korea Register of Shipping, the body responsible for issuing marine safety certificates.
It took divers working in difficult and dangerous conditions more than two days to get into the sunken ferry and almost two more days to retrieve the first bodies. On Saturday, a looming storm and high tides put a temporary halt to recovery operations.
mkg/mz (AFP, dpa, AP)