Report: Just One Lifeboat Deployed as Ferry Sank
287 passengers still missing
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2014 6:42 AM CDT
Updated Apr 17, 2014 7:37 AM CDT

(Newser) – The doomed South Korean ferry had 46 lifeboats, but according to a report from CNN's South Korean affiliate YTN, just one was deployed as the ferry sank yesterday. CNN has not independently confirmed the report, though video from another network shows at least 12 survival capsules, which house the lifeboats, remained attached to the ferry. Who did apparently make it off the ship in a lifeboat? The captain, who coast guard officials say boarded one just 32 minutes after the accident was reported, according to ABC News. The latest developments:

  • Another big problem: The initial orders issued over the PA system were for passengers to don a life jacket but remain in place rather than try to escape, which may have been a fatal mistake. A crew member explains to the AP that no immediate evacuation order was issued because officers were attempting to stabilize the vessel after it started to tilt. He says an evacuation order was given by the captain 30 minutes later, but he wasn't sure if it went out over the PA; some survivors say they never heard it. The delayed evacuation order also likely kept lifeboats from being deployed, the AP notes.
  • One survivor says passengers couldn't break the windows, and thus got stuck inside rooms.
  • Maritime police are still working under the assumption that some survived. A coast guard spokesperson says divers (there are more than 500 on the scene) intend to pump oxygen into the ferry, but right now, strong currents are keeping them from doing so. Rain and low visibility are also hampering the search, the Wall Street Journal reports, but there is a plan to raise the submerged ferry out of the water with help from a private shipping company.

  • CNN also has more of the wrenching text messages sent from trapped passengers to their loved ones. "There are a few people in the ship," one student wrote to his mother, "and we are not dead yet, so please send along this message." However, it's not clear when the messages were sent. The Journal says some were allegedly sent early this morning—but it also notes that some of the messages tell of corpses in the halls.
  • Another passenger speculates in a text sent to his brother, "The ship got hit by something." But officially, the cause of the accident remains unknown, though survivors say there was a loud thump before the boat began to tilt. The ferry captain, who could face charges of negligence and accidental homicide, has only apologized and said he is "deeply ashamed."