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South Korea president says crew's conduct 'unforgivable,' 'murderous'

April 21 2014, 14:48

April 21, 2014: A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol shouts the name of her missing family member as she waits for their return at a port in Jindo, South Korea. (AP Photo)April 21, 2014: A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol shouts the name of her missing family member as she waits for their return at a port in Jindo, South Korea. (AP Photo)South Korea's president described the actions of a sunken ferry's crew as "unforgivable" and "murderous" Monday as a prosecutor said that four more crew members had been detained on charges that they had allegedly failed to protect the stricken vessel's passengers.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye made the comments Monday at a Cabinet briefing, saying that the captain and crew "told the passengers to stay put but they themselves became the first to escape, after deserting the passengers." Park added that "legally and ethically, this is an unimaginable act,"-foxnews.com reports.

The announcement came as the confirmed death toll from Wednesday's sinking reached 64, with approximately 240 of the ship's 476 passengers, many of them high school students on a holiday trip, still missing. Divers gained access to the ship over the weekend and are expected to find more bodies trapped below decks, where passengers had remained, obeying the captain's initial order not to evacuate the vessel. Efforts to reach the capsized vessel had been thwarted for three days by bad weather and strong currents.

Meanwhile, a newly released transcript shows the ship was crippled by confusion and indecision well after it began listing Wednesday. The transcript suggests that the chaos may have added to a death toll that could eventually exceed 300.

The traffic official then said patrol boats would arrive in 10 minutes, though another civilian ship was already nearby and had told controllers that it would rescue anyone who went overboard.

The cause of the disaster is not yet known, but prosecutors have said the ship made a sharp turn before it began to list.

More than 170 people survived the sinking of the Sewol, which had been on its way from the South Korean port city of Incheon to the southern tourist island of Jeju. The captain took more than half an hour to issue an evacuation order, which several passengers have said they never heard.

The Sewol's captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was arrested Saturday, along with one of the ship's three helmsmen and the 25-year-old third mate. The third mate was steering at the time of the accident, in a challenging area where she had not steered before, and the captain said he was not on the bridge at the time.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin said the third mate has refused to tell investigators why she made the sharp turn. Prosecutors have not named the third mate, but a fellow crew member identified her as Park Han-kyul.

As he was taken from court in Mokpo on Saturday, the captain explained his decision to wait before ordering an evacuation.

"At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold," Lee told reporters, describing his fear that passengers, even if they were wearing life jackets, could drift away "and face many other difficulties."

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