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Crews search for air pockets and survivors after ferry capsized off the coast of South Korea Wednesday

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Thursday, April 17, 2014, 7:10 AM -

There were 46 lifeboats on the sunken South Korean ferry -- but only one was deployed, CNN affiliate YTN reported Thursday.

CNN has not been able to independently confirm the report. If true, the report will add to the anger and desperation of families still waiting for word on the fate of 287 missing passengers.

Video acquired by another affiliate JTBC showed at least 12 of the white survival capsules still attached to the ferry even as it was keeled over in the water. The survival capsules hold lifeboats.

The five-story, 6,800-ton ferry sank Wednesday morning, with only its white and blue hull remaining above water.

The death toll stands at 9. At least 179 passengers have been rescued.


RELATED: Rescue operation underway as South Korean passenger ship sinks 


But no one knows whether the missing 287 are alive, perhaps on the ship, or if they succumbed to the water about 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit.)

"I am sorry," Lee Joon Suk, the captain of the ship, said Thursday when reporters asked if he had any words for the family members of the missing.

"I am at a loss for words," he said as he sat at a Coast Guard station, facing possible charges of negligence and accidental homicide.

No one knows exactly why the ship started to sink.

Some analysts had said that it might have gone off course -- speculation that South Korean Oceans and Fisheries Ministry quashed Thursday.

The agency approved the ferry's intended route, and "there was no huge difference between their plan and the actual track chart," spokesman Nam Jae Heon said.

At one point or another, the massive rescue efforts has included 169 boats, 29 planes and 512 divers.

Crews will next use cranes next to stabilize the ship.

"Since there is the possibility of survivors, we cannot waste any time," South Korean President Park Guen-hye said.

The cold, dreary scene

At the Peng Mok Harbor in Jindo, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the site of the accident, family members spend the hours staring at the water.

They have camped out here since Wednesday. Mothers and grandmothers huddle together, crying and comforting each other.

Chang Min, whose son is a second-grader, said he was furious that search officials are using the word "investigation" and not the word "rescue."

"If the government cares for the people, our family, our children, please rescue our families and our children," he said.

He, like many others, are angry at the pace of the process.

Rescue officials are at the mercy of the elements. It's drizzling, making for poor visibility. The water currents are powerful, making for dangerous operations.

Three divers who took it upon themselves to go look for the missing were momentarily swept away by the tide Thursday, CNN affiliate YTN reported. A fishing boat eventually picked them up.

On Thursday afternoon, rescue crews were trying to get a crane out to stabilize the ship.

Hope for survival

The hope for survivors largely hinges on whether trapped passengers are in isolated pockets of air on the ship.

"From the images that I've seen, there's clearly some areas of the hull that are above the water, that are not flooded," Mike Dean, the U.S. Navy deputy director for salvage and diving, told "CNN Tonight."

"So absolutely, there could be areas in there where there is breathable air, but the trouble right now is the temperature and getting people to them."

Most of the bedrooms of the 353 passengers were on the fourth level of the five-floor boat.


SEE ALSO: South Korea sinking ferry: U.S. Navy responds


Passengers faced a terrifying choice as the vessel rolled: obey commands barked over loudspeakers to stay in place, or don life vests and jump into the chilly ocean water.

"Don't move," a voice warned, according to a recording obtained by CNN affiliate YTN. "If you move, it's dangerous. Don't move."

That announcement, some witnesses worried, may have cost some passengers on the ferry their lives.

"We were told to stay where you are, so we kept staying," survivor Hyun Hung Chang told YTN. "But later on, the water level came up. So we were beside ourselves. Kids were screaming out of terror, shouting for help."

"Kids were forced to stay put," another survivor told YTN. "So only some of those who moved survived."

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