(2nd LD) Death toll from sunken ferry rises to 281
JINDO, South Korea, May 14 (Yonhap) -- Five more bodies were recovered from the sunken ferry Sewol on Wednesday, raising the death toll to 281 and lowering the number of those missing to 23, four weeks after the ship sank off South Korea's southwest coast.
A joint team of government and civilian divers retrieved the five bodies shortly after it resumed search operations in the afternoon, officials said.
Divers searched the sunken ferry for about an hour overnight, but no bodies were found then. In the morning, strong currents prevented the team from going underwater, according to officials.
Wednesday's search was expected to focus on a kitchen and cabins on the third deck, other cabins on the fourth deck and the pilothouse on the fifth deck.
The 6,825-ton Sewol sank off the southwestern island of Jindo on April 16, carrying 476 people on board. Most of those dead or missing are students from a high school near Seoul on a school field trip to the southern resort island of Jeju. The ferry, which departed from Incheon, west of Seoul, sank about two hours away from the resort island.
Parts of the hull have begun to collapse, especially in areas where rescuers have carried out search operations, including a passageway to three compartments at the back of the fourth deck, according to officials.
The government team said it plans to draw up a new search plan after wrapping up current operations on Thursday.
"If the vessel needs to be raised, we will do so under a consensus with families (of the victims)," an official of the team said during a press briefing, stressing that such a move would form part of their strategy to find those missing.
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