Spring tides hamper search operations on sunken ferry

JINDO, South Korea, April 29 (Yonhap) -- Divers faced rising tides and strong currents Tuesday as they prepared to re-enter the submerged ferry Sewol for ongoing operations to find the more than 100 passengers still missing in the deadly sinking nearly two weeks ago.

Few bodies have been recovered from the vessel since the weekend due mainly to bad weather and difficulties in working around furniture and other obstacles blocking passageways inside the ship.

Four more bodies were recovered early Tuesday, bringing the confirmed death toll to 193. That number is feared to rise as 109 people remain unaccounted for.

The 6,825-ton Sewol carrying 476 passengers sank off the southwestern island of Jindo on April 16. Of them, 174 people, including the captain and most of the crew, were rescued shortly after the accident, but no one has been found alive since.

Prospects of finding the missing appeared bleak for the time being, however, as spring tides brought strong currents, according to officials.

Spring tides refer to tides in which the difference between high and low tide is the greatest. Currents are stronger by about 40 percent during spring tides compared with a period of neap tides when the difference is the least.

The spring tides are expected to last until Friday, officials said.

Weather in the area was forecast to be rainy in the morning, with about 5 millimeters of precipitation. Waves were expected to reach between 0.5 and 1 meter, with wind blowing at a speed of 7 to 11 meters per second.

A diving bell, which is an airtight chamber used for transporting divers underwater, may be put into operation later in the day, while wire cutters belonging to the Navy may be used to break open doors that have been blocked by obstacles, officials said.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>