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Death toll from sunken ferry rises to 259

Eleven more bodies were retrieved from the sunken ferry Sewol on Monday, bringing the confirmed death toll to 259 and the number of those missing to 43, 19 days after the ship sank off South Korea's southwest coast.

The bodies were found shortly after divers resumed their search inside the submerged vessel. Strong winds and high tides put operations on hold during the night.

Divers have completed an initial search of 61 of the 64 compartments where people are expected to be found, officials said.

The Sewol has a total of 111 compartments.

After combing through the compartments, divers plan to search public spaces such as lobbies, staircases, shops, arcades and bathrooms.

If the missing are not found by May 15, the rescue team plans to expand the search to the cargo compartments on the first and second decks, officials said.

The 6,825-ton Sewol was carrying 476 passengers when it capsized and sank off the southwestern island of Jindo on April 16.

Most of the passengers were high school students on a field trip to the southern resort island of Jeju.

Wind was forecast to blow at a speed of 7 to 11 meters per second at the site of the shipwreck, with waves reaching between 0.5 and 1 meter.

More stow nets and tow-boat trawls were installed closer to the site of the sinking to prevent bodies from being swept away from the vessel, officials said.

More than 750 articles of what appeared to be the victims' personal belongings have been retrieved from near the site, they said.

Mourners, meanwhile, visited memorial altars across the nation to pay their respects to the dead. Children could be spotted with their parents as Monday was a public holiday. May 5 is celebrated as Children's Day in South Korea.

According to an official government tally, more than 1.15 million people have visited altars across the nation since the first one was set up a week after the accident. About 30 percent of the mourners, or 360,000 people, paid tribute at the government's official mourning altar in Ansan, just south of Seoul.

Ansan is home to Danwon High School, which lost hundreds of students and teachers in the sinking.

As of Monday, the altar in Ansan enshrined the portraits and nameplates of 213 people, including 185 students and four teachers of Danwon.

Investigators looking into the sinking apprehended a senior official of the Sewol's operator, Chonghaejin Marine Co., on suspicion of accidental homicide and accidental sinking.

The suspect, surnamed Kim, is accused of not taking appropriate measures even though he was aware that the vessel was overloaded.

Investigators have so far arrested the ship's captain, Lee Joon-seok, and 14 other crew members as well as three other officials of Chonghaejin Marine in connection with the case.(Yonhap)

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