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Rescuers rush to reach hundreds in SKorean ferry

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South Korean rescue team members prepare to search for passengers of a ferry sinking off South Korea’s southern coast, in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Fears rose Thursday for the fate of more than 280 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with water off the southern coast of South Korea. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

South Korean rescue team members prepare to search for passengers of a ferry sinking off South Korea’s southern coast, in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Fears rose Thursday for the fate of more than 280 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with water off the southern coast of South Korea. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

Relatives of a passenger aboard a sunken ferry weep as they wait for the news on the rescue operation, at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Strong currents, rain and bad visibility hampered an increasingly anxious search Thursday for more than 280 passengers still missing a day after their ferry flipped onto its side and sank in cold waters off the southern coast of South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Lee Joon-seok, the captain of a sunken ferry in the water off the southern coast arrives to be investigated at Mokpo Police Station in Mokpo, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank Wednsday, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

South Korean rescue team members search for passengers aboard a ferry sinking off South Korea’s southern coast, in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Fears rose Thursday for the fate of more than 280 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with water off the southern coast of South Korea. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

A woman offers prayer with candlelight for the missing passengers of a sunken ferry at Danwon High School in Ansan, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea’s southern coast, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday. (AP Photo/Wonghae Cho)

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MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — Rescuers scrambled to find hundreds of ferry passengers still missing Friday and feared dead, as fresh questions emerged about whether quicker action by the captain of the doomed ship could have saved lives.

Officials also offered a rare glimpse at their investigations, saying they were looking into whether a crewman’s order to abruptly turn the ship contributed to the 6,852-ton Sewol ferry tilting severely to the side and filling with water Wednesday.

The confirmed death toll from the sinking off southern South Korea was 28, the coast guard said. Most of the bodies have been found floating in the ocean because divers have been continually prevented from getting inside the ship by strong currents and bad weather. But more than 48 hours after the sinking the number of deaths was expected to rise sharply with about 270 people missing, many of them high school students on a class trip. Officials said there were 179 survivors.

New questions were raised by a transcript of a ship-to-shore exchange and interviews by The Associated Press that showed the captain delayed the evacuation for half an hour after a South Korean transportation official told the ship it might have to evacuate.

The comment at 9 a.m. by an unidentified official at the Jeju Vessel Traffic Services Center came just five minutes after a distress call by the Sewol ferry. A crewmember on the ferry, which was bound for Jeju island, replied that “it’s hard for people to move.”

The captain has not spoken publicly about his decision making; officials continue interviews him and the crew. Earlier, a crewmember told the AP that the captain’s eventual evacuation order came at least half an hour after the 9 a.m. distress signal.

Meanwhile, strong currents and rain made rescue attempts difficult again as the search for possible survivors entered a third day. Divers worked in shifts to try to get into the sunken vessel, where most of the missing passengers are thought to be trapped, said coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in.

Coast guard officials said divers began pumping air into the ship Friday in an attempt to sustain any survivors.

South Korean officials also offered some information about what may have led to the sinking. They said the accident happened at a point where the ferry from Incheon to Jeju had to make a turn. Prosecutor Park Jae-eok said in a briefing that investigators were looking at whether the third mate ordered a turn whose degree was so sharp that it caused the ship to list.

Park said that officials were looking at other possible causes, too. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the third mate was a 26-year-old with a year of experience steering ships and five months on the Sewol.

The ship made a sharp turn between 8:48 a.m. and 8:49 a.m. Korea time, but it’s not known whether the turn was made voluntarily or because of some external factor, Nam Jae-heon, a director for public relations at the Maritime Ministry, said Friday.

Park also said crews’ testimonies differed about where the captain was when the ship started listing. As that listing continued, the captain was “near”

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