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    Apr 22, 2014

    President Park likens crew's acts to murder


    SOUTH Korean President Park Geun Hye said yesterday that the actions of the captain and crew of a ferry that sank last week with hundreds feared dead were tantamount to murder, as the authorities arrested four more officers of the vessel.

    Ms Park's denunciation, in which she vowed to hold all those responsible for the disaster "criminally accountable", followed the release of a transcript showing the panic and indecision on the bridge as the Sewol listed and capsized on Wednesday morning.

    The confirmed death toll stood at 65 last evening but was expected to rise dramatically, with 237 people still unaccounted for.

    Captain Lee Joon Seok, 69, and two other crew members were arrested last week on negligence charges, with prosecutors announcing four further arrests - two first mates, one second mate and a chief engineer.

    Several crew members, including the captain, left the ferry as it was sinking, ahead of the passengers, witnesses said.

    Ms Park said the crew's desertion was tantamount to murder. "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," Yonhap news agency quoted her as saying.

    According to the transcript, the controllers told the captain to "decide how best to evacuate the passengers" and that he should "make the final decision on whether or not to evacuate".

    The transcript shows crew on the ship worried there were not enough rescue boats to take all the passengers.

    In the end, the evacuation order was given only about 40 minutes after the ship ran into trouble, by which time it was listing so heavily that escape was almost impossible.

    Capt Lee said earlier he feared that passengers would be swept away by the ferocious currents if they leapt into the sea.