World News

Search Continues for Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks

South Korean divers continue searching for 287 people missing after a ferry capsized off the South Korean coast.

Coast guard officials said Thursday nine people are confirmed dead, though the death toll is expected to rise sharply.

A strong current and murky waters have so far prevented divers from entering the ferry, which sank early Wednesday.

It is unclear if anyone is alive inside the boat, which is almost completely submerged in water that is only 12 degrees Celsius.

South Korea's Minister of Security and Public Administration Kang Byung-kyu said floating cranes will attempt to lift the boat out of the water.



"A total of 555 divers were mobilized for search operations and three cranes departed (for the accident area) last night. One crane will arrive tomorrow morning and two will arrive at night."



Dozens of helicopters and ships are involved in the search and rescue effort. A U.S. naval amphibious assault ship is standing by to provide support if requested.

The 6,825-ton ferry Sewol departed from the port of Incheon on Tuesday night for the island of Jeju, some 100 kilometers off the southwest coast.

Authorities have not established the cause of the disaster. But some survivors report hearing a loud impact noise before the vessel rolled onto its side and began sinking.



Many passengers said they were initially told to stay in their seats and not try to escape, a development that outraged many families of those missing.

Kim Young-bung, the head of the Chonghaejin Marine Company that operated the ferry, has apologized for the disaster.



"We deeply apologized to the families and I'm saying again that we're really sorry. Our company will promise that we'll do our best not to lose any more lives. We're sorry."



Among the ferry's 475 passengers were 325 students from a high school near Seoul, traveling to the popular resort island for a four-day field trip and sightseeing.

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

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