South Korea’s president apologised on Tuesday for the government’s inept initial response to a deadly ferry sinking as divers fought strong currents in their search for nearly 100 passengers still missing nearly two weeks after the accident.
The government also raised the death toll to 204. Most of the dead and missing are high school students.
Divers are largely using their hands to feel for remaining bodies as they make their way through a maze of dark cabins, stairwells, storage rooms, lounges and restaurants in the submerged ferry, which flipped upside down as it sank April 16. But they must fight strong currents swirling around the ferry and, once inside, overturned furniture, mattresses and other debris floating in the murky, sediment-heavy waters.
President Park Geun-hye’s apology, and the earlier resignation of her prime minister, comes amid rising indignation over claims by the victims’ relatives that the government did not do enough to rescue or protect their loved ones.
Ms. Park said at a Cabinet meeting at the presidential Blue House that South Korea has “lost many precious lives because of the accident, and I am sorry to the public and am heavy-hearted.” She says the government couldn’t prevent the accident and “the initial response and remedy were insufficient.”
Ms. Park had earlier visited a memorial set up in Ansan, the city near Seoul where the high school students are from, to pay her respects to victims. She laid flowers at an altar and bowed her head. According to local media, some angry family members of victims shouted at her and demanded an apology. She listened to them for 10 minutes before leaving.