Scores May Be Trapped Inside Sunken Ferry in S. Korea

Most passengers were high school students

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 16, 2014 2:14 AM CDT | Updated Apr 16, 2014 7:58 AM CDT

(Newser) – At least four people are confirmed dead and nearly 300 are missing after a passenger ferry carrying 476 people—including more than 300 high school students and their teachers—sank off South Korea's coast this morning, reports Yonhap. Divers, helicopters, and dozens of boats scrambled to pluck people from the water after the boat sent a distress call and sank while on its way to the island of Jeju, reports the AP, in what it calls a "frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters." Yonhap reports that fears are now mounting that many of the missing are trapped inside; it took divers hours to get into the ship, but the first three areas they searched were free of bodies. The water temp is reportedly about 54 degrees Fahrenheit, cold enough for hypothermia to start to set in within about 90 minutes.

Survivors described terrifying scenes inside the ferry after it apparently hit something and began to tilt severely, trapping people inside as water rushed in. One surviving passenger tells CNN that he tried to save others but there were some he couldn't get to in time. "I stayed till the last to rescue people at the hall," he says. "But the water was coming in so fast (that) some didn't make it out." Rescue teams were able to pull some survivors through windows before it submerged. Saying she was "truly devastated," President Park Geun-hye spurred rescuers on. "There is not much time left before sunset," she said. "Please make the best efforts to rescue even one more person."

South Korean coast guard officers try to rescue passengers from the ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea.
South Korean coast guard officers try to rescue passengers from the ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea.   (AP Photo/Hyung Min-woo, Yonhap)
South Korean rescue helicopters fly over the stricken ship.
South Korean rescue helicopters fly over the stricken ship.   (AP Photo/Yonhap)
South Korean rescue and fishing boats try to rescue passengers of a ferry sinking off the southern coast, near Jindo, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
South Korean rescue and fishing boats try to rescue passengers of a ferry sinking off the southern coast, near Jindo, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.   (AP Photo/South Korea Coast Guard via Yonhap)
A ferry sinks in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing.
A ferry sinks in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing.   (AP Photo/South Korea Coast Guard via Yonhap)
A ferry sinks in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing.
A ferry sinks in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing.   (AP Photo/Jeollanamdo via Yonhap)
Parents and relatives check the rescued passengers lists at a gymnasium in Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
Parents and relatives check the rescued passengers lists at a gymnasium in Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.   (AP Photo/Yonhap)
A mother weeps as she and others search for their children's names among a list of survivors, at Danwon high school in Ansan, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
A mother weeps as she and others search for their children's names among a list of survivors, at Danwon high school in Ansan, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Passengers from a ferry sinking are rescued by Coast guard off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
Passengers from a ferry sinking are rescued by Coast guard off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.   (AP Photo/Yonhap)
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