JINDO, South Korea - Angry relatives of hundreds of missing inside a sunken South Korean ferry clashed with police Sunday morning as coastguard divers retrieved more bodies from the ship and the official number of dead rose to 49.

A rescue operation has now turned into a grim search through the stricken vessel to recover the remaining 256 passengers, most of them schoolchildren, who are still unaccounted for after Wednesday's capsize.

Up to 100 people gathered on the island of Jindo in the southwest of the country, the center of the rescue effort, and tried to march across a bridge to the mainland to take their protest to the capital of Seoul.

Police formed two lines to prevent them reaching the bridge, and relatives pushed and shoved the lines.

"Bring me the body," said a weeping mother, Bae Sun-ok, as two police officers comforted her at the bridge.

Until Saturday night, divers from the South Korean coastguard had struggled to get into the passenger quarters of the ferry which sank in 86 feet of water in calm seas while on a well-travelled route from the port city of Incheon to the South Korean holiday island of Jeju.

Of the 476 passengers and crew, 339 were either pupils or teachers from a high school in Ansan, a commuter city outside Seoul.

The sinking looks set to be the country's worst maritime disaster in 21 years in terms of loss of life.

Hundreds of despairing relatives gathered in a gymnasium in Jindo in southwestern Korea have spent four days and nights awaiting news of their loved ones on the ship.

The vice principal of the school, who was on the ferry and survived, hanged himself and was discovered on Friday outside the gymnasium in Jindo.

Early reports suggest that the ferry, on a 300-mile voyage, may have turned sharply and then listed before capsizing.