South Korea Ferry Disaster: search continues for 290 missing passengers

Marine officials on Thursday, April 17, 2014 morning continued the search operations for almost 300 people still missing after a ship carrying 475 passengers sank on Wednesday in southwest coast of South Korea leaving at least 6 people dead and 55 injured in the tragic and could be the country’s worst maritime accident in 20 years.

Search continues for missing passengers of capsized South Korea ship
Rescue operations was continued for missing passengers of Sewol | Photo: 

South Korea ministry of security and public administration confirmed that the figure for the missing passengers of capsized ferry called 'Sewol' increased to 290 while the number of those confirmed rescued fell to 179.

Related: South Korean ship sinks a day after Titanic's 102nd anniversary

“We are searching for people who might be trapped inside the ship, but it is not easy to get into the ship because of fast tidal currents,” Lee Gyeong-og, deputy minister at the ministry of security and public administration, said.

Divers, helicopters and boats are continuing to search for survivors from the ferry, which slipped beneath the surface until only the blue-tipped, forward edge of the keel was visible.

Officials said that unaccounted high number of people possibly trapped in the ship or floating in the water - raised fears that the death toll could increase drastically.

The cause of the accident is not yet announced but based on one witness as told to television channel YTN there had been a "loud impact and noise" before it began sinking.

Captain John Noble, a marine salvage expert, told Sky News the most likely explanation was the ferry hit a rock.

The ferry sent a distress call at 9am local time on Wednesday morning as it began leaning to one side. Within two hours it had completely capsized, with only the front part of its hull visible above the water.

As the search continues, a number of those messages have been reported, showing the desperation amongst the 475 crew and passengers — many of them students on a school trip to Jeju.

Jeju Island South Korea
Jeju Island South Korea | Photo Credit:

Here are some of the heartbreaking messages from the Sewol passengers to their relatives:

“Dad, I can’t walk out. The corridor is full of kids, and it’s too tilted,” one 18-year-old student messaged her father, according to ABC America.

The Korean news agency NEWSIS contained a slew of other text messages from passengers — from declarations of love to the simple report: “I am alive”.

“She was telling me: ‘we’re putting on our life vests. They’re telling us to wait and stay put, so we’re waiting, Mom. I can see a helicopter’,” Park recalled, her voice breaking with emotion.

“Mom, I might not be able to tell you in person. I love you,” one student texted, according to a Korean report cited by ABC.

Sewol Ferry sank in South Korea

The Sewol, a 146-meter vessel which travels twice a week between Incheon and Jeju, was built in Japan in 1994 and could carry a maximum of 921 people, 180 vehicles and 152 shipping containers, according to the Yonhap news agency.

According to public shipping databases, the registered owner of the ship is Chonghaejin Marine Co Ltd, based in Incheon. In a statement read out to local media, a company official offered an apology over the accident but declined to comment further.

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