TODAY   |  April 20, 2014

Death toll rises as divers enter sunken South Korean ferry

Divers are recovering more bodies from the capsized ferry that was carrying hundreds of students, leaving parents heartbroken and angry about alleged delays in the rescue efforts. NBC News' Bill Neely reports.

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>>> we have new developments in the search of that south korean ferry. the death toll is rising from the accident now that divers have finally been able to get inside the sunken vessel. our bill neely is in south korea and brings us the latest. bill, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, lester. after four days of frustration and failure, divers have now found several ways to get into the passenger area of that sunken ship . so the pace of the operation here has quickened. but that, you know, is of little comfort to the parents of so many missing children . you can hear the pain. as the death toll rises, the anguish deepens. one by one, their children are being identified. their descriptions put on screens. height. hair. clothes. child 55, 56. both boys. my child was alive in the water. i had a text message, she screamed. but most parents now accept their children are probably dead. some have had enough. marching from the rescue center in protest. these relatives are already very angry at what they say are delays in the rescue operation . and they now have been stopped from marching by what looks like a pretty heavy handed police operation. there were scuffles as police blocked them. they wanted to confront korean officials, looking for someone to blame for this disaster. please help us, she cries. someone, help us. she lost her 17-year-old son. actually, i want to die with my son.

>> reporter: the boats are coming ashore more often now. nearly every body, that of a 16 or 17-year-old. divers have now found five ways into the ship. breaking windows, installing ropes. hundreds are scouring the ship. but only 1 in 6 of those who disappeared have been recovered. for the parents, this is a long and painful wait. as for how this disaster happened, one official says they've almost ruled out the possibility that the ship hit a submerged rock. they're focusing instead on a very sharp turn by an inexperienced junior officer who prosecutors say was steering the ferry for the very first time. back to you, lester.

>> bill neely in south korea , thanks very much. the story just gets sadder by the moment.

>> it's so difficult to watch. it really is.

>> you feel their anguish and you feel their anger, frankly.

>> absolutely. i can't even begin to put myself in their