The number of bodies recovered from the sunken ferry Sewol continued to rise Wednesday, further dampening hopes of finding survivors inside the wreck.
The rescue workers resumed their search early Wednesday and recovered eight more victims from the ship, pushing the death toll up to 139.
Of the 476 people aboard, 163 remain unaccounted for eight days since the vessel sank 20 kilometers off the coast of Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, on April 16.
As the search continues, the authorities plan to focus on the third and fourth decks of the ship, where passengers are thought to have been gathered at the time of the accident.
The overnight search efforts were hampered by rapidly changing tides, despite earlier expectations that the neap tide would allow around-the-clock operations.
The neap tide, when the difference between high and low tides is smallest, is expected to last until Thursday.
Meanwhile, allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the ship’s crew and its operator continue to emerge.
On Wednesday, a local news network reported that Sewol’s operator Chonghaejin Marine Co. kept the ship in operation even though its steering gear was malfunctioning.
According to the report, the ship’s captain requested for the steering gear to be repaired on April 1. However, Chonghaejin Marine Co.’s maintenance service provider told the network that it had not carried out any repair work, nor was it under contract to do so.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com