More than 300 people missing after South Korean ferry sinks
Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00
REUTERS: Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry sank off South Korea on Wednesday, the coastguard said, in what could be the country’s biggest peacetime disaster in nearly 20 years.
The ferry was carrying 459 people, of whom 164 were rescued, coastguard officials said. Two people were confirmed dead after the ferry listed heavily onto its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea’s southwest coast. The Ministry of Security and Public Administration had earlier reported that 368 people had been rescued and that about 100 were missing.
But it later described those figures as a miscalculation, turning what had first appeared to be a largely successful rescue operation into potentially a major disaster.
The cause of the disaster was not immediately clear although some survivors reported that the ship appeared to have been involved in some sort of impact.
“It was fine then the ship went ‘boom’ and there was a noise of cargo falling,” said Cha Eun-ok, who said she was on deck of the ferry taking photographs when the disaster began.
“The on-board announcement told people to stay put ... people who stayed are trapped,” she said in Jindo, the nearest town from the scene of the accident.
There was confusion about the total number of passengers on board, as authorities revised the figure down from 477 saying some had been double counted, amid growing frustration and anger among families of the passengers.
Many of the passengers were children and their teachers from a high school in Seoul on a field trip to Jeju island, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the Korean peninsula.
As well the passengers, there were 150 vehicles on board the ferry Sewol, officials said. Witnesses said many people were likely still inside the vessel.