Rescue workers operate near floats where the capsized
passenger ship Sewol sank in the sea off Jindo.
Divers searching for survivors of a capsized South Korean
ferry have seen three bodies floating through a window of a
passenger cabin but have been unable to retrieve them, the
coastguard said, hours after the ship's captain was arrested.
The ferry, carrying 476 passengers, many of them
schoolchildren, and crew, capsized on Wednesday on a journey
from the port of Incheon to the southern holiday island of
Some 174 people have been rescued and hopes were fading for
those still missing.
The divers saw the bodies in a submerged cabin where many of
the children were believed to be trapped, but were unable to
break the glass to retrieve them.
No sounds have been detected from within the capsized hull,
the coastguard told reporters.
The discovery comes amid stalled rescue efforts due to strong
tides as hundreds of navy, coastguard and private divers
scour the site, 25 km (15 miles) off the southwest coast of
Investigations into the sinking, South Korea's worst maritime
accident in 21 years based on possible casualties, have
centred on crew negligence, problems with cargo stowage and
structural defects of the vessel, although the ship appears
to have passed all of its safety and insurance checks.
The ship's 69-year-old captain was arrested early on
Saturday, Yonhap news agency said, after coming under
scrutiny over witness reports that he was among the first to
escape the sinking vessel during its 400-km (300-mile) voyage
According to investigators, Captain Lee Joon-seok was not on
the bridge at the time the ferry, the Sewol, started to list
sharply, with a junior officer at the wheel.
Yonhap said Lee faced five charges including negligence of
duty and violation of maritime law. Arrest warrants were also
issued for the junior officer and one other crew member for
failing in their duty to aid passengers.
Handing over the helm is normal practice on the voyage from
Incheon to Jeju, which usually takes 13.5 hours, according to
local shipping crew.
The ferry went down in calm conditions and was following a
frequently travelled route in familiar waters. Although
relatively close to shore, the area was free of rocks and
Lee has not commented on when he left the ship, although he
has apologised for the loss of life.
He was described as an industry veteran by the officials from
Chonghaejin Marine Co Ltd, the ship owner, and others who had
met him described him as an "expert".
Some media reports have said the vessel turned sharply,
causing cargo to shift and the ship to list before capsizing.
Marine investigators and the coastguard have said it was too
early to pinpoint a cause for the accident and declined to
comment on the possibility of the cargo shifting.