Skip to main content

2 dead, many unaccounted as rescuers scramble to sinking South Korean ship

By Euan McKirdy and Paula Hancocks, CNN
updated 8:49 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Shoes believed to belong to the missing and the deceased are on display at the harbor. Shoes believed to belong to the missing and the deceased are on display at the harbor.
HIDE CAPTION
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
South Korean ferry sinks
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Many jumped from the ship to the freezing water below
  • The weather at the time was clear
  • The students were headed to a resort on a trip

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- Rescue boats and helicopters scrambled to pluck passengers, most of them high school students, from a ferry as it listed and slowly sank off the southwest coast of South Korea on Wednesday.

It's unclear exactly how many of the 477 people on board were rescued. Many jumped from the listing ship to the freezing waters below.

At one point, South Korean authorities said 386 passengers had been rescued and that 104 remain unaccounted for. But later Wednesday, they said they couldn't provide exact numbers.

Ferry survivors told to 'stay still'
Hundreds missing when ferry sinks
Approximate location

What is known is that at least two people -- a woman and a student -- were confirmed dead.

The rescue operation was still underway six hours after the ferry first sent out distress signal.

Authorities could not immediately say what caused the ship to sink. The weather at the time of the incident in the area was clear.

'I wanted to live'

Among the passengers the ferry, Sewol, was carrying were 325 students.

The group left from the port city of Incheon, just west of Seoul, for a four-day trip to the resort island of Jeju.

Around 9 a.m. local time, the ferry sent out its first distress call. It had begun to list.

A rescued student, Lim Hyung Min, told CNN affiliate YTN that he heard a loud bump. The ferry began to sink after that. Everyone was ordered to don life jackets and jump, he said.

Lim said he jumped into the sea before swimming to a rescue vessel.

"I had to swim a bit to get to the boat to be rescued," he said. "The water was so cold and I wanted to live."

Sinking ship: Two fatalities reported
South Korea: Ship with kids sinking

As rescue crews dashed desperately to rescue passengers, the ferry slowly tilted on its side.

With the clock ticking, the 6,800-ton ferry sank. Only its white and blue hull remained above water.

Local media, including CNN affiliate YTN, reported that all students aboard the ship had been rescued. The South Korean Coast Guard hasn't confirmed those accounts.

Passenger Kim Seung Mok said that, despite his efforts and those of others, he couldn't get to several passengers on one of the decks.

"I stayed till the last to rescue people at the hall," Kim told YTN. "But the water was coming in so fast (that) some didn't make it out."

Survivors tell of panic on board as ferry tilts, then capsizes

More on other major ferry and ship sinkings

Cargo ships collide outside of Tokyo Bay

Philippines ferry disaster kills dozens

CNN's Euan McKirdy wrote and reported from Hong Kong. Paula Hancocks and journalist Stella Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
South Korean forensics officials say they are sure the body found in a field last month is Yoo Byung Eun.
updated 5:39 AM EDT, Wed June 11, 2014
The trial of the captain and crew began, with the accused facing the families of the victims.
updated 10:52 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
South Korea's most wanted man, who is believed to have ties to the company that operated the ill-fated Sewol ferry, has eluded arrest for weeks.
updated 3:09 PM EDT, Mon May 19, 2014
South Korea's President apologized for a ferry disaster that killed close to 300 people and said she would dismantle the country's coast guard.
updated 11:23 PM EDT, Thu May 15, 2014
Here are 7 major factors that contributed to the ship's sinking.
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Wed April 30, 2014
The words and images from the cell phone of a girl who perished on the South Korean ferry convey the rising panic aboard.
updated 1:56 AM EDT, Wed May 14, 2014
In one video, the captain of the sinking South Korean ferry scrambles to safety. In another, stranded passengers panic.
updated 10:56 AM EDT, Sun April 27, 2014
As the death toll from the ferry disaster continues to rise, yellow ribbons have evolved into a national sign of grief.
updated 10:52 AM EDT, Sun April 27, 2014
Choi Duk-Ha, 17, is credited for saving the lives of many on the ferry. He later died and is now hailed as a hero.
updated 3:31 PM EDT, Mon April 28, 2014
CNN's Nic Robertson reports on the rising anger as South Koreans learn more about the final moments of the doomed vessel.
updated 11:14 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
CNN's Erin Burnett talks to Ship stability expert Paul Roden about whether the cargo lead to the ferry disaster.
updated 12:06 PM EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
South Korea is not only a nation in mourning, but also a country overwhelmed with guilt. CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Park Jee Young, 22, helped passengers escape and distributed life jackets as the stricken ferry began to sink, refusing to wear one herself. It cost her life.
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Such bravery has been conspicuously absent from two major maritime disasters in recent times.
updated 7:48 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
South Korean students remember their vice principal, who took his own life after the ferry sinking.
updated 3:30 PM EDT, Sat April 19, 2014
The captain of the sunken South Korean ferry is defending his actions as rescuers continue the search for survivors.
updated 10:01 PM EDT, Sat April 19, 2014
CNN's Kyung Lah reports on suicide in South Korea following news of a capsized ferry.