News / Asia

Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks

Maritime police search for missing passengers in front of the South Korean ferry that sank near Jindo, South Korea, April 16, 2014.
Maritime police search for missing passengers in front of the South Korean ferry that sank near Jindo, South Korea, April 16, 2014.
Daniel Schearf
South Korean divers resumed searching Thursday for 290 people - many of them teenagers - missing nearly 24 hours.

At least six people are dead and 290 missing after a ferry boat sank off South Korea's southern coast Wednesday. Authorities initially reported most of the passengers were rescued but quickly backtracked and raised casualty figures dramatically as the scale of the tragedy became clear.

The passenger ferry was carrying more than 462 people on board, most of them high school students, when it sent out a distress signal at 9:00 a.m. South Korean officials said.
 
Reports quoted passengers as saying they heard a loud noise before the 6,000-ton vessel began to tilt and then capsize and sink. It was almost completely submerged in just hours.
 
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Scores of Coast Guard, military, and private vessels responded to the disaster to rescue survivors.  They were joined by helicopters and Navy divers to search the area and sunken wreckage.
 
Most of those on board were high school students headed from Incheon to the southern resort island Jeju on a four-day school trip.
 
South Korean authorities initially reported 368 passengers were rescued, including all of the students. But, just minutes later, authorities dropped the estimate dramatically.
 
Kang Byung-kyu is Minister of Security and Public Administration.  He said as part of search and rescue efforts they will send three cranes to lift the sunken ship in the next two days.
 
He said of the number of people who have been found so far, 78 on the list of rescued are students.
 
The students all were from Ansan a town just south of Seoul.
 
Compounding the tragedy, the municipal office of education sent out a text message to parents saying all their children were safe.
 
School authorities said they quickly organized buses for parents to be taken to the scene.
 
The ship, the Sewol, sank at a depth of 30 meters, leading to speculation it may have come aground or hit a rock.
 
South Korean media reports said the ferry's regular captain was on vacation and another captain was at the helm.
 
Lee Jong-in is a representative of Salvage Company Alpha and an expert on maritime safety and rescue.
 
He said the ferry company will investigate the sinking, but the captain could have been careless. He said ultimately the captain of the ship is the one responsible for it.
 
Lee said such incidents are rare in South Korea. The last major sinking was the Navy vessel Cheonan in 2010, which Seoul said was hit by a North Korean torpedo, killing 46 sailors. Pyongyang denies it was responsible.
 
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye on Wednesday visited the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures headquarters. She urged them to do their best to rescue the missing.

VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi KIim Contributed to this report.

 
  • South Korean Coast Guard officers try to rescue missing passengers from a sunken ferry in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, April 17, 2014. 
  • Family members of missing children gather at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea, April 17, 2014.
  • Relatives of passengers board a South Korean Coast Guard boat to go to the scene of the rescue area, Jindo, South Korea, April 17, 2014. 
  • Mothers of the missing children that were aboard the sunken ferry listen to South Korean President Park Geun-hye speak, Jindo, South Korea, April 17, 2014.
  • A TV cameraman films weeping relatives of the missing passengers from the sunken ferry, Sewol, at a port in Jindo, South Korea, April 17, 2014. 
  • An official on a Coast Guard ship points at a radar display of the area where the ferry sank off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, April 17, 2014. 
  • The South Korean ferry "Sewol" is seen sinking in the sea off Jindo, South Korea, April 16, 2014.
  • This image made from video from the South Korean Coast Guard shows a passenger of a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast being hoisted onto a Coast Guard helicopter off the southern coast near Jindo, April 16, 2014.
  • This image made from video from the South Korean Coast Guard shows a rescue worker helps people climb onto a side of a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast, April 16, 2014.
  • Rescued passengers cry at a gym where rescued passengers gather in Jindo, South Korea, April 16, 2014.
  • The mother of a passenger who was on a sinking ferry reacts as she finds her son's name in the survivors list at a gym where rescued passengers gather in Jindo, South Korea, April 16, 2014.
  • Helicopters fly toward the sinking ferry that was on its way to Jeju island from Incheon, April 16, 2014.
  • People watch a TV news program showing the sinking ferry, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, April 16, 2014.

Survivors were taken to the nearby island of Jindo. Kim Tae-young, a student, said he acted quickly when the ship started to lean.

"I held a handrail and moved toward the right side of the ferry to ride a helicopter as water kept coming in," he said.

Many of the passengers said they were initially told to stay in their seats and not try to escape. Yoo Ho-shil said when he felt the ferry began to list, he knew he had to act.

''No, I could see it. I felt in my bones that I had to escape when I saw water was flooding an aisle next to a cabin," he recalled.

Most of the passengers were high school students headed to Jeju island on a school outing.

The students attend a school in Ansan, near Seoul. Classes were dismissed Wednesday  as anxious parents gathered, waiting for news about their children.

"I can't even describe how I feel now. I was super nervous," said Park Sung-ho, the father of one of the students. "Even specially trained soldiers will have a hard time if they get stranded at sea. Then what a shock it must be to those kids? I'm sure it must have felt devastating. It's even worse for the parents."

South Korean television broadcast images of the ship, as it slowly turned perpendicular to the sea before disappearing beneath the surface.

The 146-meter-long ferry departed late Tuesday from the western port of Incheon. It sank about 20 kilometers off the island of Byungpoong.

The reason for the incident is not clear. Some passengers reported hearing a loud noise before the ferry started sinking.

Heavy fog was reported in the area on Tuesday evening, but it is not known whether this contributed to the sinking.

Some information in this report contributed by Reuters.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Song jeong Lee (Stella) from: Korea
April 18, 2014 1:36 AM
I couldn't believe when I heard this news. A Titanic in Korea. And there is even more people in this boat then the one with Malaysia Airlines. Korea has stopped now.


by: Bonnie Yam
April 17, 2014 11:27 PM
Cut the boat open so divers can get in. Have rescue rafts, tons of them stand by. Shine bright light.


by: javad from: iran
April 17, 2014 2:14 PM
I feel sympathy for them.now a day poeple r dieing simply.


by: C from: Nottingham
April 17, 2014 9:54 AM
Feel for all lost


by: me from: here
April 17, 2014 1:55 AM
How is it possible to lose 1000 people in 2 weeks? Asia is victimized a bit here.


by: hiward from: south afrika
April 17, 2014 1:02 AM
Sorry, it was the time.


by: Rainy from: USA
April 17, 2014 12:58 AM
why don't they use underwater cutting torch and start cutting their way into the boat from the tip. water only 130 feet deep. useless sending divers down there. just cut open the boat damn it!.

In Response

by: Song jeong Lee (stella) from: Korea
April 18, 2014 8:31 AM
Hey Rainy I understand what you are saying, but it's really dangerous and it is unable to cut through because it is like the boat is completly sinken. But they are putting oxygens through the boat and the divers are searching inside the boat.

In Response

by: tony from: hongkong
April 17, 2014 12:36 PM
More water would ingress into the void by doing this. they are now pumping air into the vessel hoping some would still survive by staying at those air pockets


by: Caro from: Boston USA
April 16, 2014 11:27 PM
I'm very sorry my heart goes out to families


by: Miss_Oh from: Philippines
April 16, 2014 9:54 PM
Fighting ! South Korea ! AJA ! AJA !


by: byun baekhyun from: seoul korea
April 16, 2014 12:41 PM
please NORTH KOREA dnt bothered the SOUTH KOREA because they are soo Very Understanble.. and hard touch.. why Thier are some person of south korea was misssing dnt anymore give a Problem because when you join on this Legal problem... hmmmn U.S.A will help also so that you cannot come back to thier problem.. dnt expect a War... because Maybe you And U.S.A will fight..

Comments page of 2
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid