South Korean prosecutors seek arrest of Sewol ferry captain

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Prosecutors in South Korea have requested an arrest warrant for the captain of the ferry that sank on Wednesday, leaving hundreds missing and many feared dead.

It comes as speculation mounts over whether more lives may have been saved if commander Lee Joon-seok had issued an evacuation order sooner.

Already in custody, a sheepish and hooded Joon-seok, who is also accused of abandoning ship, was earlier heard saying: ‘‘I am so sorry, I’m ashamed. I’m at a loss for words.’‘

News of another tragic turn on Friday. The vice-principal of Danwon high school, whose pupils are among many of those missing was found hanged, in what appears to be an apparent suicide.

South Korean media claim the 52-year-old teacher blamed himself for surviving in the place of many of his students.

For the families waiting for news, the agony and the reality of what has happened to their loved ones is proving unbearable. Of the 475 people on board the Sewol ferry, nearly 270 are still unaccounted for. Only 28 have officially been declared dead.

One father and sister of a missing student said: ‘‘They need to hurry to find survivors but the divers are not going in. If they don’t find anyone today they won’t find anybody else alive,’‘ he said.

‘‘We hear the survivors inside the ship are dying,’‘ said the sister.

Search and rescue teams have been pumping air into the ferry in a desperate bid to save those trapped survivors that may still be alive, but weather conditions have been hampering rescue efforts.

Investigators have said it is too early to pinpoint a cause for the accident though the crew’s role remains a major area of focus.