Divers recover more bodies in South Korean ferry

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By Jung-Yoon Choi
May. 5, 2014 5:55 AM EDT

Divers recover more bodies in South Korean ferry
A boy prays near paper ships with messages to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 5, 2014. More than 300 people are dead or missing in the water off the southern coast in the disaster that caused widespread grief, anger and shame. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Children pay tribute to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 5, 2014. More than 300 people are dead or missing in the water off the southern coast in the disaster that caused widespread grief, anger and shame. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A girl reads massages written on paper ships for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 5, 2014. More than 300 people are dead or missing in the water off the southern coast in the disaster that caused widespread grief, anger and shame. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A girl cries during a rally to pay tribute to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol, in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, May 3, 2014. Divers battled strong currents and wind Saturday to search unopened rooms in the sunken South Korean ferry for dozens of missing passengers, officials said Saturday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A girl prays in front of paper ships bearing messages for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 5, 2014. More than 300 people are dead or missing in the water off the southern coast in the disaster that caused widespread grief, anger and shame. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Family members of passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol stand to protest delays in the search operation at a group memorial altar in Ansan, South Korea, Sunday, May 4, 2014. Divers battled strong currents and wind Saturday to search unopened rooms in the sunken South Korean ferry for dozens of missing passengers, officials said Saturday. The letters at cards read "Save children and call for thorough investigations into the ferry sinking." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A boy ties a yellow ribbon with a message for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 5, 2014. More than 300 people are dead or missing in the water off the southern coast in the disaster that caused widespread grief, anger and shame. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, boards a coast guard vessel at a port of Jindo, South Korea, to head to the site where the ferry Sewol sank in waters off the southern coast, Sunday, May 4, 2014. Park told families of those missing in the sunken ferry that her heart breaks knowing what they are going through, as divers recovered two more bodies on Sunday. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, center, talks with a diver at the site where the ferry Sewol sank in waters off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Sunday, May 4, 2014. Park told families of those missing in the sunken ferry that her heart breaks knowing what they are going through, as divers recovered two more bodies on Sunday. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, consoles a relative of a passenger aboard the ferry Sewol at the site where the ship sank in waters off the southern coast near Jindo,, South Korea, Sunday, May 4, 2014. Park told families of those missing in the sunken ferry that her heart breaks knowing what they are going through, as divers recovered two more bodies on Sunday. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Divers helped by better weather and easing ocean currents retrieved 12 passengers' bodies from the sunken South Korean ferry Monday, raising the death toll to 260 with 42 people still missing.

Investigators also have made their first formal arrests of people who were not on board the Sewol when it sank April 16. The three employees are suspected of negligence in their handling of cargo on the vessel.

Monday is a South Korean holiday, Children's Day, but various events were canceled or postponed because of the ferry's sinking. The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, run by the Seoul city office, canceled a handful of outdoor events and music festivals on the holiday.

As of Sunday 1.1 million people had paid respects at 131 memorial altars around the nation, according to a governmental funeral support committee set up for the ferry victims.

The Sewol carried 476 people, most of them students from a single high school. Only 174 survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members.

In searching for the missing, divers were working their way into the last three unopened rooms, next to a snack bar on the ferry's third floor, a spokesman for the emergency task force, Ko Myung-seok, told reporters.

Ko earlier said that the search team does not expect to find many bodies in those rooms as they were not assigned to the high school students who made up most of the ferry's passengers. The divers will revisit areas searched earlier, while checking other areas such as bathrooms on each floor, looking for more of the victims. Darkness, floating debris and the maze of corridors and cabins onboard have made the search difficult.

Meanwhile, the joint investigation team probing the cause of the sinking formally arrested employees of the ferry owner Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd. on suspicion of negligence. Prosecutor Yang Jung-jin said three employees who handled cargo were formally arrested on Friday and on Sunday, while an executive of the company was detained.

In all 19 people have been arrested in the investigation, 15 of them crew members accused of abandoning passengers. An executive with ties to Chonghaejin was arrested on suspicion of malpractice related to company finances.

Improper stowage and overloading of cargo is suspected as a possible reason the ferry sank. The ferry was carrying an estimated 3,608 tons of cargo, more than three times what it could safely carry. A ferry loaded too heavily could lose its balance making even a small turn.

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