Authorities confirm that 300 passengers are still missing after a ferry sank in the cold waters off the coast of South Korea on Wednesday morning. Four people are confirmed dead, but that number is expected to rise dramatically with 300 of the ship's 459 passengers unaccounted for, according to Fox News on April 16.
Most of the passengers are high school students, who were headed for a retreat. The multistory ferry could be seen on its side in the water for a short time during the rescue before becoming completely submerged. Dozens of passengers are injured, reports South Korea’s Ministry of Security and Public Administration.
Several of the rescued passengers report that they heard a loud “thump” before the ship started leaning to one side and began sinking off the southern coast of South Korea. Fishing boats in the area headed for the site of the sinking ferry as soon as the first distress signal was sent from the ship at around 9 a.m. local time Wednesday morning.
A U.S. Navy ship happened to be in the area and they have joined in the rescue. Helicopters are airlifting passengers to safety, plucking them out of the cold ocean waters. Reuters News reports on Wednesday morning that the coast guard has confirmed that there are 300 people missing at this hour.
The Ministry of Security and Public Administration’s earlier reports had 368 people rescued with about 100 missing, but they are now saying that those figures were a “miscalculation.” There are still almost 300 people missing with the remaining 159 people out of the 459 on board accounted for.
The reports went from a “largely successful rescue mission” to “potentially a major disaster,” reports Reuters. It is not known what the ship hit, but from what the survivors are reporting there appeared to be some sort of a impact that caused the ferry to sink.
One of the rescued passengers said that everything was going along just fine until you heard “boom” and this was followed by the sound of cargo falling. Passengers talked to reporters from the town of Jindo, which is the closest town to the site of the ferry disaster. This is the town where they transported the survivors who were rescued.
A good number of the passengers were teachers and parents with their children who came from a high school in Seoul. This group was being transported by the ferry to their field trip destination on Jeju Island, which is about 60 miles off the Korean peninsula.
When news of the ship sinking first emerged, the reports were scattered and conflicting. The ship was about 20 miles away from the nearest land when it started to sink. Witnesses report that they believe a good number of the missing were trapped inside the ferry and that they went down with the vessel. Authorities report that there were also 150 vehicles on board the ferry, which are now at the bottom of the ocean.
The on-board announcement told people to “stay put,” but the passengers who were rescued report those who heeded the instructions became trapped inside the sinking ship. Late on Tuesday night the ferry left from the port of Incheon, which is just outside of Seoul. It was headed for Jeju Island.
The rescue involves 18 helicopters and close to 100 ocean going-vessels. This includes ships from the coast guard and the navy, along with area fishing boats. Navy divers are in the water searching for the missing as of Wednesday morning.