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South Korean Ferry Now Completely Underwater; Death Toll Climbs to 28

April 18, 2014

Published on Apr 18, 2014

By Holly Yan, Paula Hancocks and Stella Kim


Jindo, South Korea (CNN) -- As divers raced to reach hundreds of people believed to be inside a sunken ferry boat, the death toll from the disaster rose to 28 Friday.

Rescue workers managed to breach the hull of a sunken ferry and two divers managed to enter the second deck -- the cargo deck, the Coast Guard said. But rough waters forced them back out again. They didn't find any bodies in their brief search.

"The guide line that links the sunken ship and the rescue vessel has been cut off," the Coast Guard said. "Still, the entrance into the ship is open and we plan to resume operation to enter the ship."

It's a race against time.

Hopes of finding the roughly 270 people still missing dimmed further when the entire boat became submerged underwater Friday. Until then, part of the ship's blue and white hull was still poking out of the frigid waters of the Yellow Sea.

On top of that, divers must contend with fierce winds and rough waters.

"There are heavy currents in the area. So the vessel itself is not stable in the water. So you are, by default, putting divers at risk," U.S. Navy Capt. Heidi Agle told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. The U.S. Navy is assisting with the South Korean search.

The cause of the accident still isn't known. But a Korean prosecutor said the captain wasn't in the steering room when the ship started to sink; a third mate was at the helm.

"It is not clear where (the captain) was when the accident occurred, although it is clear that he was not in the steering room before the actual accident happened," state prosecutor Jae-Eok Park said Friday.

The captain, Lee Joon Suk, was one of at least 179 people rescued soon after Wednesday's sinking. A bigger number -- 271 -- were still missing Friday morning, the South Korean coast guard said.

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