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Sewol confirmed death toll rises to 150

The death toll from the Korean ferry Sewol has now reached 150, with over 150 still missing.

Reports suggest passengers were not instructed to put on life jackets and were told to remain in their cabins while crew fled the sinking vessel. The South Korean coast guard have confirmed that a passenger, not a member of the crew, made the first distress call.

Although the reason for the sinking is unclear, captain Lee Joon-seok was absent at the time Sewol began listing, with the vessel’s third-mate was in charge of steering.

The captain, two first mates, one second mate and a chief engineer have since been arrested on negligence charges. Meanwhile the ferry’s parent company is also under investigation, with reports that South Korean authorities have today raided the home of founder Yoo Byung-un. Both Yoo and his two sons have been barred from leaving the country.

The vessel was carrying 476 passengers and crew, 339 of who were children and teachers on a school trip. Divers continue to search the ship, with a robot deployed to float Sewol’s upturned hull. So far, 174 have been rescued.

Korean President Park Geun-hye condemned the tragedy as “akin to murder” after crew failed to instruct passengers to wear life jackets. "Above all, the conduct of the captain and some crew members is unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense, and it was like an act of murder that cannot and should not be tolerated,” Park was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as telling aides.

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