APRIL 16, 2014 — A massive rescue effort is underway after the capsize and sinking of a 6,586 gt ferry carrying 462 people off South Korea's southern coast. Korea's Ministry of Security and Public Administration said there have been at least four deaths, 294 people remain missing and 164 people have been rescued.
The vessel, the 146 m Sewol, owned by Chonghaejin Marine Co Ltd, departed from Incheon on Tuesday around 9 PM for Jeju Island, on a route it serves twice a week.
Passengers included about 330 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, a suburb of Seoul.
The ship sent a distress signal at 8:58 AM Wednesday morning when it was about 20 km off the island of Byungpoong. Reports say that it sank within two hours.
It is not yet known what caused the incident, but witnesses described hearing an impact, before the ship listed then sank.
One passenger told the YTN news channel: "We heard a big thumping sound and the boat stopped. The boat is tilting and we have to hold on to something to stay seated."
Weather conditions were described as fine.
Yonhap News Agency said that the ferry sank at a depth of 30 m.
The Korean Coast Guard has dispatched over 20 patrol boats and aircraft to the scene. The Korean Navy joined the rescue operations by sending a guided-missile patrol killer, six speed boats and a Lynx helicopter. A number of commercial vessels also came to assist.