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South Korea Ferry tragedy: Death toll reaches 281, search on for missing 23 passengers

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With the recovery of five more bodies from the sunken ferry Sewol on Wednesday, the toll in one of South Korea’s deadliest maritime disasters rose to 281, officials said.

The five bodies were retrieved from passages and passenger cabins of the submerged hull, with 23 other passengers still missing, Xinhua reported citing officials.

The 6,825-tonne Sewol capsized near Jindo Island off the southwestern coast of South Korea April 16.

Among the 476 passengers and crew on board the ill-fated ship were 325 students and 14 teachers from Danwon High School in Ansan, a city south of Seoul.

A total of 125 divers searched passenger cabins on the third, fourth and fifth floors of the five-storey ship, while 139 military ships, 36 airplanes and 42 civilian ships scoured the waters near the scene to find bodies possibly swept away from the submerged vessel.

South Korean prosecutors have asked Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the sunken ferry’s operator Chonghaejin Marine, to appear in court May 16.

Prosecutors said Yoo and his family members might now face charges including embezzlement, dereliction of duty, tax evasion and bribery.

Prosecutors Monday also issued an arrest warrant for Yoo’s eldest son Yoo Dae-gyun after he disobeyed summons. He was the biggest shareholder of four affiliates of their family business, including a holding company of the operator of Sewol.

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