South Korean Ferry Accident: 300 Missing, Death Toll Expected to Rise

Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 07:37 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A South Korean ferry accident left at least four people dead and nearly 300 missing early Wednesday after a vessel carrying hundreds of high school students capsized in the freezing Yellow Sea.

According to the South Korean ministry, 292 people are unaccounted for as of Wednesday morning out of the 459 people onboard the ferry, CNN reported. At least 325 of the passengers were students.

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The 6,825-ton ferry, the Sewol, sailed out from the South Korean port city of Incheon and was said to be headed to the resort island of Jeju, The New York Times reported. Government officials have yet to say what caused the ferry to suddenly sink in the frequently traversed waters, adding that at the time of the accident the weather was clear.

A female and three males have been confirmed dead, CNN noted. In addition to the 325 students, there were also reportedly 15 teachers, 30 crew members, and 89 other passengers onboard when the ferry capsized.

Soon after the distress call was sent out, which was reportedly shortly after 9 a.m. local time, South Korean military personnel flooded the area with some 118 Marines and 160 Coast Guard and Navy divers attempting to rescue as many people as they could from the frigid waters, according to government minister Kang Byung-kyu.

One of those rescued from the ferry was a student named Lim Hyung Min, who told CNN affiliate YTN that he heard a loud bump before the vessel began sinking. In order to make it to a rescue vessel, Min said he threw himself into the freezing water as the ship sank around him.

"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."

According to a South Korean emergency official, the water temperature near where the ship went down was about 12 degrees Celsius (53 degrees Fahrenheit), which is cold enough to cause signs of hypothermia within 90 minutes of exposure, Fox News reported.

In addition to the South Korean military, the U.S. Navy's USS Bonhomme Richard arrived at the scene and sent helicopters to assist in the rescue operation.

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