SKorea ferry toll hits 150 as search gets tougher

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In this Tuesday, April 22, 2014, searchers and divers look for people believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea. One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from the South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago. (AP Photo/Korea Pool) KOREA OUT

In this Tuesday, April 22, 2014, searchers and divers look for people believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea. One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from the South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago. (AP Photo/Korea Pool) KOREA OUT

Messages wishing safe return of passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol hang with a Buddhism lotus decoration in Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from a South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

In this Tuesday, April 22, 2014, searchers and divers look for people believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea. One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from the South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago. (AP Photo/Korea Pool) KOREA OUT

In this Tuesday, April 22, 2014, searchers and divers look for people believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol near buoys which were installed to mark the vessel in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea. One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from the South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago. (AP Photo/Korea Pool) KOREA OUT

Visitors write messages on the side of a tent, wishing safe return of missing passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol at a port in Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from the South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

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JINDO, South Korea (AP) — The grim work of recovering bodies from the submerged South Korea ferry proceeded rapidly Wednesday, with the official death toll reaching 150, though a government official said divers must now rip through cabin walls to retrieve more victims.

The victims are overwhelmingly students of a single high school in Ansan, near Seoul. More than three-quarters of the 323 students are dead or missing, while nearly two-thirds of the other 153 people on board the ferry Sewol when it sank one week ago survived.

Even with about 150 people still missing, the funeral halls in Ansan are already full, Oh Sang-yoon of the government-wide emergency task force center said in a statement. He said the center “is taking measures to accommodate additional bodies by placing mortuary refrigerators at the funeral halls in Ansan,” and directing mourning families to funeral homes in nearby cities.

On Jindo island, where bodies recovered from the ferry are taken, descriptions of the dead are read over a loudspeaker. Relatives rush over to the main notice board and peered at details added by an official.

Some relatives cry out and run from the tent. Others stand red-eyed and shell-shocked.

The number of corpses recovered has risen sharply since the weekend, when divers battling strong currents and low visibility were finally able to enter the submerged vessel. But task force spokesman Koh Myung-seok the work is becoming more difficult, and divers must now break through cabin walls to retrieve more bodies.

“The lounge is one big open space, so once in it we got our search done straight away. But in the case of the cabins, we will have to break down the walls in between because they are all compartments,” Koh said.

Twenty-two of the 29 members of the ferry’s crew survived, and 11 have been arrested or detained in connection with the investigation. Two were arrested Wednesday, senior prosecutor Ang Sang-don said.

The captain, Lee Joon-seok, and two crew members were arrested Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. On Tuesday, four crew members were arrested and another two were detained without arrest warrants.

The four crew members arrested Tuesday talked to reporters after a court hearing, their faces hidden with caps, hooded sweatshirts and masks.

One said they tried to correct the ferry’s listing early on but “various devices, such as the balance weight, didn’t work. So we reported the distress situation, according to the captain’s judgment, and tried to launch the lifeboats, but the ferry was too tilted and we couldn’t reach.”

The captain has said he waited to issue an evacuation order because the current was strong, the water was cold and passengers could have

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