Seoul (AFP) - Suspected human bones were recovered Wednesday from South Korea's sunken Sewol ferry, officials said -- after having to embarrassingly withdraw a similar assertion after the ship was salvaged in March.
The 6,800-ton vessel sank off the country's southwestern coast three years ago, claiming more than 300 lives, mostly high school students on an excursion.
One of the country's worst-ever maritime disasters, it dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye, and nine of the victims' bodies have yet to be recovered.
Raising it in one piece was a key demand of their families, and workers have since been painstakingly sifting through the silt piled up inside the hull.
Two bones were retrieved Wednesday from a passenger cabin on the fourth floor, the maritime ministry said.
Citing forensic experts on the scene, it said they were apparently human and had been sent to the National Forensic Service for DNA tests.
Last week, a diver combing the sea bed where the ferry had been lying found a bone fragment believed to be from a human shin.
In March, soon after it was salvaged the ministry announced that human bone fragments had been found under the hull of the ship.
But DNA tests confirmed they were from pigs, to the ministry's embarrassment.
Wednesday's announcement was the first time suspected human bones had been found inside the wreck.
Investigations concluded the disaster was the result of numerous human factors, including an illegal redesign, an overloaded cargo bay and inexperienced crew.