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South Korea ferry disaster: Boy and girl found with life jackets tied together

Diver who found their bodies believes they tied their jackets together on the sinking ship to stop them floating apart

A diver has spoken of the moment he found the bodies of a boy and girl who had tied their life jackets together to prevent them from drifting apart while trapped on the sinking South Korea ferry.

The unnamed diver had to separate the boy and girl because he could not carry both of them up to the surface at the same time.

"I started to cry thinking that they didn't want to leave each other," he told the Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper on the island of Jindo on Thursday, near to where the Sewol ferry capsized with 476 passengers on board.

On Thursday, the parents of the boy who made the first distress call from aboard the sinking South Korea ferry said his body has been found by divers, the coast guard has said.

The parents are understood to have seen his body and named him as their son, but he has not yet been formally identified by DNA.

"Save us! We're on a ship and I think it's sinking," the Yonhap News Agency quoted the boy as saying. His call was followed by about 20 other emergency calls from children on board the ship.

The majority of the 300 dead or missing victims were from a high school near the capital of Seoul after the ferry sank while travelling from Incheon to Jeju Island. The confirmed death toll on Thursday was 171.

US President Obama is expected to express grief during a visit to South Korea today, where he will meet with President Park Geun-hye for an evening of talks.

Angry relatives of some of those still missing confronted the fisheries minister Lee Ju-young and the coast guard chief Kim Seok-kyun on Thursday. Families surrounded them in an overnight stand-off that lasted into today as they vented their rage at the pace of search efforts.

korea-15.jpgAbout 700 divers were working at the site of the 16 April wreck, said Koh Myung-seok, spokesman for the government-wide emergency task force. He said more than 340 volunteer divers visited, but only 16 had gone underwater.

Authorities said the search is becoming more difficult because divers must now break through cabin walls to find more bodies. Many of the bodies already retrieved were in a larger lounge area.