Divers began to locate bodies inside a submerged South Korean ferry yesterday as the detained captain defended his decision to delay evacuation of the ship when it capsized nearly four days ago with 476 people on board.
Investigators arrested captain Lee Joon-Seok and two of his crew early in the morning. All three have been criticised for abandoning hundreds of passengers trapped in the ferry, as they made their own escape. Lee was charged with negligence and failing to secure the safety of passengers in violation of maritime law.
Thirty-three people have been confirmed dead in the disaster, but 269 are still missing -- most of them children on a high school holiday trip.
As the arrests were being made, dive teams who had spent two days vainly battling powerful currents and near zero visibility, finally penetrated the passenger decks of the 6,825-tonne Sewol. They have spotted bodies inside the ferry.
Earlier, captain Lee and the two crew members were paraded before TV cameras, dressed in dark raincoats with their hoods pulled up and their heads bowed.
Questioned as to why passengers had been ordered not to move for more than 40 minutes after the ship first foundered, Lee insisted it was a safety measure.
"At the time a rescue ship had not arrived. There were also no fishing boats or other ships around to help," Lee said.
"The currents were very strong and the water was cold at that time in the area. I thought that passengers would fall into trouble if they evacuated," he added. Experts have suggested many more people might have escaped if they had moved to reach evacuation points before the ship listed sharply.