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[Ferry Disaster] Search for victims of ferry sinking on hold due to bad weather

The search for victims of the Sewol ferry sinking has been put on hold due to unfavorable weather near Jindo island, authorities said Saturday.

Officials in charge of finding victims and determining the cause of the tragic accident said high wind and wave alerts issued for the area are making it impossible to send divers to the sunken ship after two more bodies were recovered the previous day.

"Waves are rising to the point that they are wetting the deck of the barge that is being used as the staging area for divers," an official told reporters at Jindo country office. He said 2-meter-high waves have been reported with conditions expected to worsen in the afternoon.

Others said the high wave and wind warnings will be maintained until Monday, that can cause searches to be called off during the weekend.

The official death toll for the ferry that sank on April 16 currently stands at 275, with 29 still missing. The 6,825-ton ship was carrying 476 passengers and an undetermined amount of cargo when it capsized and sank of the country's southwestern coast. A total of 172 people were rescued by the Coast Guard and fishing boats near the scene.

Related to the search, divers said that internal partitions have started to deform as they have become water-logged, making it more difficult to conduct operations.

In addition to searching the capsized ship, authorities have used buoys and markers to follow the movement of currents to help facilitate a recovery of bodies and materials that may have been swept away.

Funeral services, meanwhile, for three Danwon High School students lost in the sinking were held earlier in the day in Ansan, located 42 kilometers southwest of Seoul. Another service for the 53-year-old civilian diver who died while searching for victims was also held in Namyangju, east of Seoul.

Representatives of families who lost their loved ones said that over 462,000 people have visited various memorial altars since April 23. They added that 99,000 condolence messages have been received.

Of those on the boat, 339 were from Danwon High School, on a school excursion to Jeju Island. (Yonhap)