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South Korea ferry: School vice-principal found dead

A high school vice principal who had been rescued from a sinking South Korean ferry has been found hanged, police said.

The news of the death came today as rescuers scrambled to find hundreds of people still missing from the ferry and feared dead.

The passengers included 325 second-year students from Danwon High School heading to a southern island on a four-day trip.

A police officer says the vice principal, identified only by his surname Kang, was found dead on the island of Jindo where rescued passengers have taken shelter.

The ferry sank on Wednesday.

Officials have confirmed 28 deaths. But that number is expected to rise sharply. About 270 people are missing.

Authorities involved in the rescue operation have said the captain of the ship gave the wheel to a third mate before it began sinking off South Korea’s southwestern coast.

Investigators have said claims that the ship could have made a “ drastic turn” on Wednesday, causing its cargo to shift and the boat to list, are also being investigated as the search for survivors enters its third day.

 

Twenty-eight people have now been confirmed dead and 179 people have been rescued so far.

 

Divers have been working against strong currents and poor weather to access the sunken ship overnight as a total of 268 people, many of whom were high school students, are still missing.

 

Divers have also begun injecting air into the ship in an attempt to sustain potential survivors and to help the Sewol vessel float. Teams have reportedly managed to access the restaurant of the ferry and the bridge, but students are believed to be on a different floor.

Investigators said that the captain Lee Joon-seok may not have been on the ship's bridge at the time of the accident and the vessel was being steered by the third mate, a normal situation on many ship journeys.

"We have confirmed that the captain of the Sewol left the wheel to a third officer before the ship began sinking," chief investigator Park Jae-eok was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency.

 

"We are investigating whether the captain left the pilothouse," he added.

"Though surviving crews have different testimonies about the situation, we've been investigating the captain as he was suspected to leave the steering room for an unknown reason.”

 

"Whether or not they took a drastic turnaround is under investigation," Mr Park said.

Both the 69-year-old Lee and the company that owns the ship have apologised for the loss of life, although neither has admitted responsibility.

 

The exact cause of the accident has not been established, but experts have also suggested the ship could have also hit a rock as it travelled from Incheon to the popular tourist island of Jeju.

 

Some 325 school children from the Danwon High School in Ansan, a Seoul suburb, were on board and some of the survivors have said those who listened to announcements to stay put are the ones who were left trapped on the sinking ship.

Parents waiting at a make shift rescue centre in a hospital in the city of Mokpo, close to the port city of Jindo expressed their anger at witness reports that passengers were told not to evacuate.

 

"How could he tell those young kids to stay there and jump from the sinking ship himself?" one asked.

 

"I want to jump into the water with them," said Park Geum-san, 59, the great-aunt of another missing student, Park Ye-ji. "My loved one is under the water and it's raining. Anger is not enough."

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