Zee Media Bureau
Seoul: As divers continued strenuous efforts to retrieve more bodies, death toll from the ferry sinking disaster reached 244, with 8 more bodies being recovered on Sunday.
According to Yohap news agency, military and civilian divers retrieved eight more bodies from the fourth deck of the sunken ship, bringing the confirmed death toll to 244 as of Sunday.
Meanwhile, confessing her “indefinite responsibility” for the disaster and its handling in the aftermath of sinking, President Park Geun-hye visited southern port of Paengmok today to meet the families of the victims.
"I feel indefinitely responsible for the accident itself as well as dealing with the aftermath," she was quoted as saying.
Park also vowed "utmost efforts in the rescue operations to the last minute" and also warned that those found responsible for the tragic accident will be taken to task.
In the meantime, some port documents were said to have revealed serious regulatory failure in the operations of the passenger ships as it emerged that ferry Sewol exceeded its cargo limit on 246 trips - nearly every voyage it made in which it reported cargo before it sank, reported a news agency.
According to the report, the Korean Register of Shipping examined the Sewol early last year as it was being redesigned to handle more passengers. The register slashed the ship`s cargo capacity by more than half, to 987 tons, and said the vessel needed to carry more than 2,000 tons of water to stay balanced.
But the register gave its report only to the ship owner, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd. Neither the coast guard nor the Korean Shipping Association, which regulates and oversees departures and arrivals of domestic passenger ships, appear to have had any knowledge of the new limit .
Chonghaejin reported much greater cargo capacity to the shipping association: 3,963 tons, according to a coast guard official in Incheon who had access to the documentation but declined to release it.
Details from the port documents were first reported by the South Korean newspaper Kukmin Daily.
The disaster has exposed enormous safety gaps in South Korea`s monitoring of domestic passenger ships, which is in some ways less rigorous than its rules for ships that handle only cargo.
Collectively, the country`s regulators held more than enough information to conclude that the Sewol was routinely overloaded, but because they did not share that data and were not required to do so, it was practically useless.
The port operator has no record of the cargo from the Sewol`s last voyage. Ferry operators submit that information only after trips are completed.
With Agency Inputs