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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More