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Search teams enter Sewol ferry to find victims' remains

MOKPO -- Search parties entered the wreckage of the Sewol ferry Tuesday to find the remains of those still missing following the vessel's sinking three years ago.

The government said a team of eight workers searched through the fourth floor of the bow on the portside from 1 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., recovering some 18 articles believed to have belonged to passengers.

Among the items found were a few pairs of shoes, two suitcases, two back packs and trousers, making the total tally of recovered lost items so far to 126, according to the government. The officials aim to complete the search within three months.

Workers begin a search for the remains of nine missing people inside the raised Sewol ferry on April 17, 2017. (Yonhap)
Workers begin a search for the remains of nine missing people inside the raised Sewol ferry on April 17, 2017. (Yonhap)

The 6,800-ton ferry that sank on April 16, 2014, off the nation's southwest coast claimed 304 people, most of them teenage students on a school trip. It was raised from the bottom of the sea and put into dry dock at a local port in Mokpo, some 410 kilometers south of Seoul, last week.

The bodies of nine people, including four students and two teachers, were never found.

Workers earlier drilled nine holes in the hull of the ferry to allow the search teams to enter the vessel's cabin sections on the third- and fourth-floor decks, as well as the after part of the ship.

Photos taken by workers during the first part of the search showed shattered walls and other destroyed structures in the passenger cabin section on the fourth-floor deck.

Using helmet cameras, the search team members are sending back live-broadcast videos of their operations to relatives of the missing people. 

As they cleaned a section of the ship, a bag, clothes and other objects belonging to those on board were found, officials said.

A name tag is said to have been attached to the bag retrieved, according to officials.

Lee Cheol-jo, a senior official at the Oceans and Fisheries Ministry in charge of the search operation, said it will take time to fully complete the search, depending on internal conditions of the ship. (Yonhap)