South Korea Ferry Disaster: 287 People Still Missing
Bad weather and strong currents are hampering the search for survivors of the South Korean ferry disaster. Emergency services are still searching for 287 people missing after a ship carrying 475 people sank.
Officials say 179 people have been rescued, among them Kwon Ji-yeon, a six-year-old girl whose parents are still on the missing list. Most of the passengers were pupils at the same high school.
South Korea’s president visited the wreck and urged rescuers to “hurry”. Park Geun-hye said that time was running out and that every minute and every second was critical.
Nine people are confirmed to have died, and the death toll is expected to increase sharply in what could be the country’s worst maritime accident in two decades.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has reported that one Russian and two Chinese are also among the missing
Military divers have been fighting high wind and waves to try to access the vessel but were not able to get into any of the cabins, the Chief of the West Regional Headquarters of the South Korean Coastguard Kim Soo-hyun said
Speaking at a news conference on nearby Jindo Island, Mr Kim said he would approve civilian divers who wished to join the search, provided there was “trust” between them and the official search teams.
He also expressed hope that the arrival of underwater cameras would help divers operating in waters with extremely low visibility.
Overnight, naval and coastguard vessels used floodlights and flares, to maintain a search now involving more than 500 divers, 171 vessels and 29 aircraft.
The ferry’s captain, 69-year-old Lee Joon-seok, faces a criminal investigation, a coastguard official told Reuters, amid unconfirmed reports that he was one of the first to jump to safety.