Seoul, April 16: A passenger ship with 459 people aboard, mostly high school students, sank in waters off South Korea’s southwest coast Wednesday, leaving at least two people dead and 293 others missing, a official said.
Lee Kyung-ok, vice minister of Security and public administration, said two people have been found dead, and 164 people were rescued, but 293 others were confirmed missing, Xinhua reported.
A 22-year-old female crew member and a male high school student have been found dead.
The 6,325-tonne passenger ship “SEWOL” sank into waters off the Jindo island, just off the southwest corner of the Korean Peninsula, around 11.30 a.m. (15.30 GMT) Wednesday.
The ferry, carrying 429 passengers and 30 crew members, sent out a distress signal around 8.55 a.m. and had floated in the waters for some two and a half hours with its body being on a careen.
The 429 passengers on board included 325 high school students and 15 teachers who were on a school journey.
Rescued passengers said the ship 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.
The vice minister said 350 more rescuers were dispatched to the scene to help search for the 293 missing people, some of whom were feared to be trapped inside the sunken vessel.
The ship departed from South Korea’s western port city of Incheon Tuesday night and was heading for the southern resort island of Jeju.
After receiving the distress signal, the South Korean authorities dispatched 72 rescue ships and 18 helicopters to the scene for rescue operations.
According to an earlier report, 471 people were on board the ship and 190 people rescued till 10:20 a.m.