South Korean ferry disaster: Text messages from children trapped on board are cruel hoax say police as rescue hopes fade

Officials vow to 'hunt down and sternly punish' those responsible

seoul

This morning, three huge cranes are due to attempt to lift the sunken ferry Sewol from below the sea after divers battled in vain to penetrate its hull and free almost 290 people, mostly schoolchildren. By tonight, little hope remained for finding those trapped alive, as strong winds and heavy currents stymied rescue efforts.

Working through the night, divers placed unmanned robots into the water, directing them to the ship in order to enter doorways or windows which humans could not.

Reports then emerged of text messages purporting to have been sent by those trapped inside the ferry to their loved ones. However, confusion remained over the authenticity of the missives.

“This might be the last chance to say I love you,” one student, named as Shin Young-jin, was reported to have texted his mother. But South Korea’s National Police Agency concluded that none of the trapped passengers had sent text messages and that those said to have done so were not missing. “We will hunt down the people who wrote these messages,” a police official said, vowing to “sternly punish them for hurting the families and causing confusion in the search efforts”.

The sudden precarious tilt of the ship explained why many of the passengers were unable to scramble from the middle deck, where they were told by crew members to wait for lifeboats to take them off. One crew member who escaped explained that he wanted to prevent mass panic among the schoolchildren.

 

But some of the children, ignoring the instructions, clambered outside as the ship tilted completely to one side and jumped into the water before it capsized north of Byungpoong Island, around 290 miles from Seoul. More than a dozen bodies have been recovered from the water.

Of the 475 passengers and crew members on the ship at the time of the accident, only 179 were rescued and no more rescues appeared likely.

Despite the increasing focus of the operation on recovery rather than rescue, parents waiting at Jindo, the nearest port, were hoping their loved ones were alive in air pockets below deck.

“Bring our children back alive,” several of the parents shouted when South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye visited the scene. “We cannot give up,” Geun-hye said. “We have to do our best to rescue even one passenger.”

A relative awaiting news collapses in Jindo A relative awaiting news collapses in Jindo (Reuters)
The tragedy prompted accusations of multiple failures, ranging from the inexperience of the crew in rescue operations to the flight of the captain and most of the crew while many others were hopelessly trapped. The ship disappeared from view almost two and a half hours after scraping against what is presumed to be a rock or rocky reef.

The captain, Lee Joon-seok, was said to have apologised on television.

“I am really sorry and deeply ashamed,” he reportedly said. “I don’t know what to say.”

Against the background of grief, the reports of text messages increasingly appeared to have been a cruel hoax. One student was said to have texted his mother, “Mom, I love you,” while another told her father, “Dad, don’t worry, I’ve got a life vest on, we’re huddled together.”

He was said to have responded: “I know the rescue is under way, make your way out if you can.”

She then was said to have texted back, “Dad, I can’t walk out. The corridor is full of kids, and it’s too tilted.”

Those words, at least, appeared correct.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
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

Cover Supervisor Preston

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Cover Supervisor Jobs in Presto...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: We URGENTLY require qualified an...

IT Portfolio Analyst - Prince2

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client, a glob...

Project Co-ordinator - Birmingham - Permanant

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week