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July 27, 2017

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Divers retrieve 2 more bodies from site of South Korea ferry disaster

SEOUL -- Divers have retrieved two more bodies from the wreck of the South Korean ferry that sank last month, as conditions on the ship further deteriorated, officials said Saturday.

The bodies were found late Friday in the inverted, submerged ship, bringing the confirmed death toll from the April 16 disaster to 275, coast guard spokesman Ko Myung-Suk told journalists. Twenty-nine are still unaccounted for.

Divers have now swept through most of the ship, which is resting on its side at a depth of more than 40 meters off the country's southern coast.

But as days go by, they are retrieving fewer and fewer bodies.

The divers have also reported that partition walls on the ship have started warping and are at risk of collapsing, which would further complicate their work, a government task force said in a statement.

The divers have been under immense pressure from the authorities and the victims' families to retrieve all the trapped bodies as quickly as possible.

They face enormous hazards and challenges, including near-zero visibility, strong currents and often treacherous weather conditions.

A storm warning was likely to be raised later Saturday, Ko said.

"But the government will push through with the search operations," he said.

The Sewol was carrying 476 people when it sank after listing sharply to one side.

Of those on board, 325 were children from a high school in Ansan City in the southern suburbs of Seoul who were on an organized trip to the southern resort island of Jeju.

Initial investigations suggest the ferry was carrying up to three times its safe cargo capacity.

The ferry had been habitually overloaded, investigators said.

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