South Korea ferry disaster: death toll tops 240, president meets relatives

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South Korea ferry disaster: death toll tops 240, president meets relatives

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South Korean President Park Geun-hye has visited Jindo 20 days after hundreds of people died, many of them children, when a ferry sank off the island.

The confirmed death toll has topped 240, with several more bodies retrieved from the harbour this weekend. Dozens of passengers remain unaccounted for.

During Sunday’s visit, President Park briefly met with relatives of victims whose bodies have still not been found.

Many of the 476 people on board the Sewol ferry were students from a single high school.

Only 177 people survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members. Many of the crew fled the liner, leaving passengers on board.

The South Korean government has been criticised over the authorities’ slow response to the sinking of the ferry. Prime Minister Chung Hong-won tendered his resignation over the disaster.

In a statement issued by the government last week, President Park said: “I apologise to the people that so many precious lives were lost.” She also pledged to improve safety regulations nationwide.

Investigations have been centred on whether the sinking was caused by human error.Prosecutors have detained the captain and his crew and raided the offices of the ship’s operating company Chonghaejn Marine.

Questions have been raised over whether the vessel was overloaded with cargo and whether it had mechanical defects.