South Korea ferry passengers who were told to stay put 'got trapped' aboard sinking ship

At least four people are dead and over 290 are missing after ferry capsized

Seoul

Passengers on the South Korea ferry that capsized were told to stay where they were before the ship sank, several survivors said, as it emerged schoolchildren trapped on board sent heart-breaking text messages to their parents as they realised what was happening.

Teams of divers worked through the night to search for the 290 people who remained unaccounted for after the MV Sewol sank off the south-western coast of South Korea. Some 325 school children were among the 475 people on board the vessel.

"Mom, this might be my last chance to tell you I love you," one youth said in a text message, according to the Los Angeles Times. His mother replied, but did not get an answer. Another pupil texted his father to say "Dad, I can't walk out because the ship is tilted too much, and I don't see anyone in the corridor", according to South Korea's YTN news channel.

And an 18-year-old girl reportedly sent a message to her father saying: "Don't worry too much dad, I am wearing a life vest and with my friends. I am inside. Still in the hallway." He replied asking whether she should go outside, but she said: "No dad, I can't go outside. There are many kids in the hallway, and it is tilted too high."

Several survivors said passengers were told to remain where they were after the ferry struck the reef. Initially it did not appear the vessel was in immediate danger of sinking.

Cha Eun-ok, who was on the deck taking photographs at the time, said an "on-board announcement told people to stay put... people who stayed are trapped".

Parents search for their children's names among a list of survivors at Danwon high school in Ansan, South Korea Parents search for their children's names among a list of survivors at Danwon high school in Ansan, South Korea

And a 57-year-old man, named as Yoo, told Yonhap News: "A broadcast said: 'Stay where you are.' But I couldn't because the water level was rising. I wore the safety jacket and came out. If they told us to evacuate immediately, it would have been better."

Koo Bon-hee, a 36-year-old businessman, said he and other passengers had waited for 30 minutes as the ferry filled with water and listed to one side, before floating to an exit and swimming to a fishing boat.

South Korea Coast Guard members rescuing some of the 477 passengers and crew aboard a South Korean ferry capsizing on its way to Jeju island from Incheon. South Korea Coast Guard members rescuing some of the 477 passengers and crew aboard a South Korean ferry capsizing on its way to Jeju island from Incheon.

"The rescue wasn't done well. We were wearing life jackets. We had time," Mr Koo said from his hospital bed. "If people had jumped into the water... they could have been rescued. But we were told not to go out."

Officials said 174 people had been rescued, after initially reporting a much higher figure. Six people were confirmed dead and 55 were injured.

A sign of the difficulty of the search was that only four bodies had been recovered by nightfall - all picked up from the water, not the ship. The currents around the ferry impeded the search and, by early Wednesday, rescuers still were not able to get inside to see what had happened.

The school children and 15 teachers had boarded the vessel on Tuesday night at the west coast port of Incheon and slept on board. The ship was two hours away from its destination, the tourist island of Jeju. The children were due to spend a three-day holiday there.

South Korea coast guard head to stricken passengers aboard the sinking ship South Korea coast guard head to stricken passengers aboard the sinking ship

Many of those rescued were children who had been ordered to line up and get into waiting boats. Others were told by the captain - believed to be among the survivors - to put on life jackets and jump into the sea.

Officials said that some of the missing may have stayed alive in air pockets in the submerged vessel as parents and relatives gathered in reception centres, schools and government buildings demanding answers and clutching at any shred of hope.

READ MORE:  UNTIL THIS DISASTER SOUTH KOREA'S FERRY SAFETY RECORD FARED WELL
Four dead and almost 300 missing as mass rescue gets underway

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Audit Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Graduate Opportunities are available at a lead...

Tradewind Recruitment: Experienced Cover Supervisor

£12000 - £14400 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Experienced Cover Supervisor...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Account Manager

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are proud to be on...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Engineer with SQL skills

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project