JINDO , South Korea - Divers retrieved more than a dozen bodies Sunday from the submerged South Korean ferry that capsized four days ago with hundreds of children on board, opening a grim new chapter in the search and recovery process.
Three bodies -- the first to be retrieved from the ship's interior -- were pulled out just before midnight and another 10 were recovered later Sunday morning, a coastguard spokesman said.
The breakthrough followed days of fruitless efforts by more than 500 divers to access the interior of the capsized ship, while battling powerful currents and near-zero visibility.
Their recovery looks set to dash the slim hopes of distraught relatives who had clung desperately to the idea that some passengers may have survived in air pockets in the upturned vessel.
The confirmed death toll from the disaster now stands at 46 with 256 people still unaccounted for.
Of the 476 people on board when the 6,825-tonne Sewol capsized and sank on Wednesday morning, more than 350 were high school students headed for the holiday island of Jeju.
Few details were provided of the 13 bodies recovered, but relatives of the missing gathered on Jindo island -- close to the disaster site -- have begun providing DNA samples to facilitate identification.