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Two dead after ferry sinks off South Korean coast



SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Dozens of boats, helicopters and divers scrambled Wednesday to rescue more than 470 people, including 325 high school students on a school trip, after a ferry sank off South Korea's southern coast, killing at least two and injuring 14, officials said.

The ferry with 476 people aboard was sailing to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call Wednesday morning after it began leaning to one side, according to the Ministry of Security and Public Administration. The government said about 95 percent of the ship was submerged.

Two coast guard officers said that a 27-year-old woman named Park Ji-yeong and another unidentified person had died. One of the officers - both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity citing department rules - said 180 passengers had been rescued so far, but gave no further details, including what caused the ferry to sink or the conditions of the other passengers.

A student, Lim Hyung-min, told broadcaster YTN from a gym on a nearby island that he jumped into the ocean wearing a life jacket with other students and then swam to a nearby rescue boat.

"As the ferry was shaking and tilting, we all tripped and bumped into each another," Lim said, adding that some people were bleeding. Once he jumped, the ocean "was so cold. ... I was hurrying, thinking that I wanted to live."

Local media ran photos showing the partially submerged ferry tilting dramatically as helicopters flew overhead and rescue vessels and a small boat covered with an orange tarp over it floated nearby.

Passenger Kim Seong-mok, speaking from a nearby island after his rescue, told YTN that he was "certain" people were trapped inside the ship as water quickly filled up inside and the severe tilt of the ferry kept them from reaching the exits. Some people yelled at those who couldn't get out, urging them to break windows.

Kim said that after having breakfast he felt the ferry tilt and then heard it crash into something. He said the ferry operator made an announcement asking that passengers wait and not move from their places. Kim said he didn't hear any announcement telling passengers to escape.

The water temperature in the area was about 12 degrees Celsius, cold enough to cause signs of hypothermia after about 90 minutes or 2 hours, according to an emergency official who spoke on condition of anonymity citing department rules.

The students are from a high school in Ansan city near Seoul and were on their way to Jeju island for a four-day trip, according to a relief team set up by Gyeonggi Province, which governs the city. The ferry left Incheon port, just west of Seoul, on Tuesday evening, according to the state-run Busan Regional Maritime Affairs & Port Administration.

At the high school, students were sent home and parents gathered for news about the ferry.

Park Ji-hee, a first-year student, said she saw about a dozen parents crying at the school entrance and many cars and taxies gathered at the gate as she left in the morning.

She said some students in her classroom began to cry as they saw the news on their handsets. Teachers tried to soothe them, saying that the students on the ferry would be fine.

A total of 16 helicopters, 34 rescue vessels and navy divers were sent to the area, Lee Gyeong-og, a vice minister for South Korea's Public Administration and Security Ministry, told a televised news conference. He said President Park Geun-hye ordered a thorough rescue operation to prevent deaths. He said 14 had been injured so far, including one described as serious, and taken to hospitals.

Later Wednesday, 21 navy and 11 coast guard divers began searching the near-sunken ship for survivors, according to emergency officials.

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royeberk April 16 2014 at 2:11 AM

The tidal range there on the west coast of Korea is very wide. High tides there are very high, and low tides are very low. Remember General MacArthur's risky amphibious invasion of Korea at Inchon about sixty years ago during the (of course) Korean war. The timing of the landing was critical there and then at Inchon because it had to be just at high tide. This Korean cruise ship that sank yesterday was delayed in its departure from Inchon for some reason, according to news reports. The first thing investigators will look at in this tragedy is that it missed the high tide in its departure, and that it struck an underwater obstacle that could have been cleared at high tide, which probably was charted, but struck after the high tide was lowering. Someone made a fatal misjudgment about leaving the port of Inchon after the correct time. My high school yearbook's motto was, "The tide tarrieth no man." The author is obscure. The meaning is real.

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radarmannoshoes April 16 2014 at 1:19 AM

This ship looks to be aground. Yes flooded, but not sunk.

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abcstarfox April 16 2014 at 1:18 AM

Seems like all methods of travel are effected these days.
All getting very wierd.

Trains jumping the track, buses crashing, ships sinking,
and planes "disappearing" .

I just hope the injured are ok.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
dandydon255 abcstarfox April 16 2014 at 2:10 AM

Judgement day

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1 reply
accordmee dandydon255 April 16 2014 at 5:36 AM

You wish, then you could say ( i was right about God).

Flag 0 rate up
sarahhavai April 16 2014 at 3:03 AM

This is why you should appreciate every moment, and not take things for granted and be greatful. I hope everyone makes it in that ship.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Wizard April 16 2014 at 12:36 AM

my god its horrible

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1 reply
jeffc152 Wizard April 16 2014 at 12:56 AM

Yes, god does do horrible things.

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2 replies
postalguitar3 jeffc152 April 16 2014 at 1:21 AM

No. God doesnt do horrible things. PEOPLE do horrible things and horrible accidents happen.

Flag +1 rate up
Howdy jeffc152 April 16 2014 at 1:40 AM

4-16-14***1:42 am---shame on u blaming God--it only goes to show u know nothing of GOD--may he forgive u!

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FIESTA & SIESTA April 16 2014 at 12:25 AM

Very sad - there is so much sadness in the world right now - my prayers will be with all these students and everyone involved.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Hippie April 16 2014 at 12:34 AM

It seems that almost every "sinking ferry" story comes from somewhere in Asia or Africa. Lots and lots of islands, and old, overloaded boats, I guess.

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LilAnnie2012 April 16 2014 at 3:53 AM

I agree with royeberk, the water level obviously had something to do with this. It ran aground and is lilting on whatever it ran into. That's obvious by the picture. It hadn't sunk and if there was no known problem that the captain knew about, it had to of ran aground. My prayers go out to all who were on that ferry!

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Velocity105 April 16 2014 at 4:17 AM

I'll be waiting to see the words "North Korea" in the next article tomorrow in relation to this mishap.

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alex1461a April 16 2014 at 4:56 AM

I find it a little abnormal that this happened 102 years after the titanic sunk on this day aka yesterday.

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