JINDO, South Korea - South Korea's president apologized Tuesday for the government's inept initial response to a deadly ferry sinking as divers fought strong currents in their search for nearly 100 passengers still missing nearly two weeks after the accident.
The government also raised the death toll for what has become a point of national mourning and shame to 204. Most of the dead and missing are high school students.
Divers are largely using their hands to feel for remaining bodies as they make their way through a maze of dark cabins and stairwells in the submerged ferry, which flipped upside down as it sank April 16. But they must fight strong currents swirling around the ferry and, once inside, overturned furniture, mattresses, and other debris floating in the murky waters.
President Park Geun Hye's apology, and the earlier resignation of her prime minister, comes amid rising indignation over claims by the victims' relatives that the government did not do enough to rescue or protect their loved ones.
Park said at a cabinet meeting at the presidential Blue House that South Korea has "lost many precious lives because of the accident, and I am sorry to the public and am heavy-hearted." She says the government couldn't prevent the accident and "the initial response and remedy were insufficient."
Park had earlier visited a memorial set up in Ansan, the city near Seoul where the high school students are from, to pay her respects. According to local media, some angry family members of victims shouted at her and demanded an apology. She listened to them for 10 minutes before leaving.
Investigators are expanding their probe into both the cause of the sinking and the initial response.
Of the 475 people believed to have been aboard at the time of the sinking, only 174 survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members.
The government is making initial plans to eventually salvage the ferry but has indicated it won't do so until search efforts end.
All 15 crew members responsible for the ship's navigation have been arrested but have not been formally charged because investigations are still going on.