Strong currents and low visibility are making operations difficult as more than 500 divers try to search the vessel, Kang Byung Kyu, minister of Security and Public Administration, said at a televised briefing today. The coast guard has been investigating 10 crew officials on the cause of the incident, according to a Mokpo Coast Guard Station official, who gave his name only as Kim. TSouth Korean divers searched for survivors a day after a ferry sank, killing at least nine people and leaving 287 missing.he ferry broke away from the route advised by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Yonhap News reported, citing the coast guard.
The accident may be the worst in over two decades in South Korea after a passenger ship sank in 1993, killing 292. At least nine people, including three students, died in yesterday’s accident, which occurred off the southwest corner of the Korean peninsula. Of the 475 passengers and crew, 179 people have been rescued. Chances of finding more survivors are diminishing due to the cold sea temperature.
“I felt something seriously went wrong when I noticed the ship was listing as sharply as 45 degrees at around 9 a.m,” Yang In Seok, a 48-year-old who was transporting cargo to Jeju together with three fellow delivery men, said, his neck wrapped in a cast. “I bolted from the third floor of the stern, bumping against the wall, and then made it up to the deck to find a helicopter pulling us up.”
Many passengers may have been unable to escape as the ship turned over and sank too fast, Ko Myung Suk, director general of Equipment & Technology Bureau at Korea Coast Guard, told reporters in Seoul. Rescuers are hopeful some passengers may still be alive if there’s enough air in the ship, he said.
The passengers included 325 students and 14 teachers from Danwon High School on an excursion to Jeju island, according to the school’s website.
Hundreds of parents whose children remain unaccounted for are packed into a gymnasium on Jindo island, near the site of the sinking, waiting for news. Some scuffled and threw water at South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong Won, who was surrounded by aides when he arrived last night. Soldiers and doctors were standing by, while one woman was carried out on a stretcher after falling unconscious.
A total of 555 divers have been conducting an underwater search, which continued overnight with the help of flares fired from helicopters and rescue vessels’ flashlights. A U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, is standing by to offer assistance, U.S. Naval Forces Korea said in an e-mailed statement.
“I feel terrible that this unfortunate accident has happened to students on a field trip, and other passengers,” South Korea’s President Park Geun Hye said in a meeting with senior emergency officials, according to a statement on the website of her office. “If there is any hint of survivors, make every effort and never give up until the end.”