JINDO, South Korea – Eight people have been confirmed killed, with the fate of 288 others unknown, in the sinking of a South Korean ferry off the country’s southwestern coast, officials said early Thursday.
As military divers and other rescuers resumed a desperate search for survivors shortly after noon yesterday, two more bodies were recovered, the Coast Guard announced.
The death toll is feared to soar, as search-and-rescue efforts have been hampered by swift currents, low visibility and low temperature.
The 6,825-ton Sewol, heading to the Jeju Island with 475 people on board, capsized after sending a distress call at around 8:58 a.m. Wednesday. It completely sank two hours and 20 minutes later.
Passengers include 375 students and 14 teachers from Danwon High School in Ansan, who were on a four-day field trip to the island. Among them, 179 have been rescued.
The exact reason for the sinking of the ferry in Jindo remains unconfirmed but reports suggest that it might have hit an underwater rock. Rescuers say many of the passengers and crew seem to have been trapped in the vessel. Authorities plan to start working to recover the sunken vessel as early as Friday.
Teary families of the missing have been restlessly waiting for follow-up reports at the Paengmok Port in Jindo, South Jeolla Province, the nearest port from where the ship sank.
Immediately after receiving a briefing on the incident, South Korean President Park Geun-hye ordered all-out search-and-rescue efforts by relevant authorities, according to her office.
Park was quoted as saying her heart is breaking over what could be one of the worst tragedies in South Korea during peacetime.
Prime Minister Chung Hong-won hurried to Jindo to meet the families of the passengers. He faced a barrage of fierce protests from many families upset about a delay in rescue efforts.
Source: Busan eFM News