Tragedy of the Sewol: Hundreds still missing in stricken South Korean Ferry

Nearly 300 people who were aboard the stricken South Korean ferry when sank on Wednesday morning are still missing.

    2014/04/17

NSFW    Rescuers and families of those aboard the stricken South Korean car and passenger ferry that sank off the country’s southwest coast on Wednesday haven’t given up hope of finding more people alive among the hundreds unaccounted for.

The Sewol ran into trouble during the 14-hour journey from Incheon to the southern resort island of Jeju early Wednesday morning. About four hours from its destination, the ship was sailing in thick fog, which may have obscured the crew’s vision. At 8.30 a.m. it appears as though the ship it struck a large rock, puncturing its hull.

Passengers described hearing a loud sound on impact and a experiencing sharp jolt. The ship tilted suddenly, causing luggage to fall from overhead storage shelves. Many people jumped into the frigid water as they realized the ferry was sinking.

The crew sent out a distress signal and nearby ships responded. But survivors say a message broadcast over the ship’s PA system telling people to stay in place may have worsened the situation. One passenger said that even as water inside the ship began to rise they were told not to move. Others were rescued by fishing boats and military ships with helicopters which raced to the scene. Once the Sewol began taking on water it took just two hours to fully capsize.

In the panic and chaos, one highschooler identified only by her last name, Shin, texted her father: "Dad, don’t worry. I’ve got a life jacket on and we’re huddled together." Her father replied "I know the rescue has begun but make your way out if you can.” Shin wrote back, "Dad I can’t walk out, the corridor is full of kids and it’s too tilted." Shin’s name is not among the list of people rescued.

Witnesses say many people might still be alive, trapped within the upturned ferry. But it lies in 30m deep water. The water is murky, reducing visibility to less than half a meter, hampering the rescue. What’s more, people likely trapped in air pockets must deal with the icy water, which can cause hypothermia in as little as 90 minutes.

Rescue teams earlier hammered on the ship’s hull hoping for a response from trapped survivors, and divers have taken to the water … but hope is fading.

The Sewol has a capacity of 912 people. 475 passengers and crew were aboard, including 324 high schoolers on a field trip.

When disaster struck, many of those people were gathered in the Sewol’s entertainment center, on the third floor of the five-deck ship. When it capsized the third deck was fully submerged. It’s believed a power outage soon after would have left many of them in darkness.
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