Updated: 04/23/2014 14:03 | By Agence France-Presse

Grim SKorea ferry disaster search enters second week

The search for scores of passengers still missing from South Korea's ferry disaster entered a second week Wednesday, to the deepening distress of their grieving, angry and frustrated families.


Grim SKorea ferry disaster search enters second week

A woman bows as she visits a newly opened memorial altar for the victims of the sunken South Korean ferry "Sewol" at the Ansan Olympic memorial hall on April 23, 2014 - by Kim Doo-Ho

 The confirmed death toll stood at 146, but 156 were still unaccounted for, their bodies believed trapped in the inverted, submerged ship that sank a week ago in circumstances that have yet to be fully explained.

As the relatives of the missing began their daily vigil at the harbour of Jindo island, where bodies recovered from the disaster site are brought, others converged on a temporary memorial to the victims in Ansan city, 200 miles (320 kilometres) to the north.

Ansan has become a focal point of national mourning. The city is home to the Danwon High School which had 352 students and a dozen teachers on the Sewol when it capsized.

Nearly 280 students are among the dead and missing.

The memorial, set up in an indoor sports stadium, was opened Wednesday and comprised a giant, staggered bank of flowers -- white, yellow and green chrysanthemums -- among which rested the framed pictures of 22 students whose funerals have already taken place.

Above the floral wall, a large banner carried the message: "We pray for the souls of the departed".

In Jindo harbour, the latest bodies recovered from the ferry were taken to a small tented village set up to manage the process of identifying the bodies.

"I'm here to help you recognise the dead," a forensic official told a group of relatives called to the site because ID documents or distinguishing features indicated their family member might be among those brought ashore.

"We have cleaned the bodies, but did not take their clothes and socks off so that you can recognise them more easily," the official said, before leading them into a separate, closed-off section.

Each positive identification was marked by a piercing cry of anguished recognition and an outpouring of grief from the family members -- most of them middle-aged parents.

The disaster has stunned South Korea where there has been widespread public anger directed at the ferry company and crew, the rescue coordinators and the government in Seoul.

The Sewol's captain, Lee Joon-Seok, and six crew members are under arrest with two other crew taken into police custody on Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, prosecutors raided a host of businesses affiliated with the ferry operator -- the Chonghaejin Marine Company.

The raid was part of a probe into "overall corruption in management", Kim Hoe-Jong, a prosecutor on the case, told AFP.

More than 70 executives and other people connected with Chonghaejin and its affiliates have been issued 30-day travel bans while they are investigated on possible charges ranging from criminal negligence to embezzlement.

Captain Lee and his surviving crew members have been pilloried in the media for abandoning the ship while hundreds remained trapped inside.

President Park Geun-Hye has described their actions as being "tantamount to murder".

There has been particular criticism of Lee's decision to delay the evacuation order until the vessel was listing so sharply that escape had become almost impossible.

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