Seoul, April 16: At least four people were killed while 284 went missing as a ferry, carrying 462 people most of them being school children, sank in waters off South Korean coast Wednesday, local media reported.
The students were bound for a holiday island.
The 6,825-tonne passenger ship “SEWOL” capsized and sank into waters off the Jindo Island, just off the southwest corner of the Korean Peninsula, at around 11.30 a.m. Wednesday, Xinhua reported.
The ship sent out a distress signal at 8.52 a.m. and had floated in the waters for some two and a half hours with its body being on the careen.
Four people, including a 22-year-old female crew member and three high school students, were found dead as of 9 p.m. local time, with 174 people confirmed rescued and 284 others still missing.
The toll continued to rise as hundreds of passengers remained missing around nine hours after the ship sank deep into the waters. The number of death was expected to surge as people in the waters can endure hypothermia only for three hours.
Among the 174 people confirmed rescued, 78 were high school students. A total of 55 people were transferred to nearby hospitals, but they had minor injuries.
According to the headquarters’s statistics, the ferry carried 30 crew members and 432 passengers, including 325 high school students and 15 teachers who had been on the way for a school journey.
The ship had departed from South Korea’s western port city of Incheon Tuesday night, heading for the southern resort island of Jeju.
The ship, according to rescued passengers, began to careen to the port side after making a banging sound on the bow. The ferry went off the pre-arranged sea route as it departed some two and a half hours later than scheduled due to a thick fog, they added.