Number of Deaths in South Korean Ship Disaster reaches 49

Seoul: The toll in the South Korean ferry disaster has risen to 49 with 14 bodies recovered Sunday, the South Korean Coast Guard said.

Divers kept entering the hull of the submerged vessel to look for trapped bodies.

Koh Myung-seok, director general of the coast guard, told reporters that a total of five underwater ropes have been installed and that enabled divers to go down into the sunken vessel at a much faster pace than before, Xinhua reported.

Coast guard, navy and private divers have been entering the hull through their separate guidelines simultaneously, Koh said, noting it resulted in random discovery and retrieval of bodies trapped inside the hull.

A total of 49 people have been confirmed dead so far and 174 rescued, but 253 passengers are still missing.

More than 560 divers conducted search operations into the hull overnight 15 times, with 192 rescue ships and 31 airplanes helping in the search and rescue operation.

The ship Sewol departed the western South Korean port city of Incheon Tuesday night for the southern resort island of Jeju. Among the 476 passengers and crew were 325 high school students and 15 teachers.

Divers have struggled against rapid currents to get into the hull of the ship, and Saturday morning for the first time found three bodies with the naked eye.

The third and fourth floors are composed of passenger cabins, where most of the possible survivors may have been trapped. There are freight compartments on the second floor and a dining room on the first floor. Divers succeeded in reaching the first and second floors Friday.

Around 87 passengers stayed at the cabins on the third floor, 353 put up on the fourth floor, and seven on the fifth floor of the five-story ship.