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Family Members Refuse to Allow Cranes to Lift Sunken South Korean Ship

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Relatives of about 270 people missing and believed to be trapped inside a ferry that sank off South Korea expressed outrage on Saturday and refused to allow cranes to lift the ship, fearing for the safety of any survivors.

More than 650 divers are trying to reach the inside of the Sewol, which fully submerged below the surface of the water Friday night, coast guard official Ko Myung-seok said.

The water is murky, and divers who have spotted bodies have not been able to reach them because they cannot break open the windows of the boat.

Although cranes have arrived to retrieve bodies from the doomed vessel, family members of the missing would not give permission for crews to lift the ship — as they hold out hope that searchers will make rescues and not just recoveries.

During a briefing at a gymnasium on Jindo Island, a few dozen relatives hurled their bodies at the stage, desperately asking questions of officials.

"Aren't people supposed to have faith in the government," asked Lee Jong-eui, a businessman whose 17-year-old nephew, Nam Hyun-chul, is among the missing. "The government should have hurried up and have done something, but they just wasted four days, which led to this point. I think this is more like a man-made disaster."

Thirty-two of the 476 people aboard the ship, most of whom were students from one high school, have been confirmed dead. The ship's captain was one of 174 known survivors and was arrested on Friday along with one of the Sewol's three helmsmen and the 25-year-old third mate, prosecutors said.

— Bill Neely and Elisha Fieldstadt

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Image: Family members of missing passengers of the Sewol ferry comfort each other Saturday as they wait news about their missing relatives at a gym in Jindo, South Korea.
Family members of missing passengers of the Sewol ferry comfort each other Saturday as they wait news about their missing relatives at a gym in Jindo, South Korea.KIMIMASA MAYAMA / EPA

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