The biggest maritime disaster for South Korea in nearly 20 years has recently unfolded. A ferry carrying nearly 459 passengers capsized. The South Korean Coast Guard says that nearly 300 people are still missing, 4 are dead and 55 are injured. Unfortunately, most of the people on this ferry at the time were school students.
The South Korean Coast Guard currently has dozens of helicopters, divers and boats out looking for passengers. The ferry, which was called Sewol, was carrying students from Danwon high school in Ansan, a city that is located near Seoul. They were traveling to the port of Incheon, which is known for being a very popular tourist island. This was to be part of a four-day field trip. In many Asian countries, taking long, end-of-the-year field trips is something that most students look forward to all year.
According to reports, there were around 325 students and 15 teachers on board the ferry at the time of the capsizing. One of the passengers on the boat, Cha Eun-ok, was standing on the deck of the ferry taking pictures when the disaster started. She said that everything was fine, and then there was a loud boom. This was followed by the sound of falling cargo. Chan Eun-ok said that there was an on-board announcement for people to stay put and not to move. The people who listened to the announcement are now trapped inside the boat.
A spokesman for the Coast Guard said that they have managed to save around 164 people. Many of these people were found in the water or on the outskirts of the ship. One of the rescued passengers said that they believe that there were still many people who were alive and trapped inside the ferry when it sank.
The U.S. Navy confirmed that it has ships en route to help with the rescue operation. The U.S. Seventh Fleet said that the USS Bonhomme Richard is already on the scene. This is an assault ship that has helicopters on board and was already off the South Korean coast because it was on routine patrol. The goal is to find the missing people as soon as possible. The water temperature is only 12 degrees Celsius. This is so cold that the average person could get hypothermia in as little as 90 minutes.
One of the passengers, Kim Seong-mok, said that he felt the ferry start to tilt shortly after having breakfast. It was at this point that it crashed into something. After the crash, the operator of the ferry told everyone not to move and stay where they were. Kim says that he did not hear one announcement that told the passengers to escape. The parents at Danwon high school are anxiously waiting to hear news about their kids, he added.