Passenger ship carrying 477 sinks off S. Korean coast

Seoul – A passenger ship with 477 people aboard, mostly high school students, sank in waters off South Korea’s southwest coast Wednesday morning, with two dead and 14 wounded, local media reported.

The 6,325-ton passenger ship “SEWOL” was capsized and sank down into waters off the Jindo Island, just off the southwest corner of the Korean Peninsula, at around 11:30 a.m. local time Wednesday.

The ferry, which was carrying 453 passengers and 24 crew members, sent out a distress signal at about 8:55 a.m. and had floated in the waters for some two and a half hours with its body being on the careen.

The vessel was believed to run aground in the waters as some rescued passengers said the ship began to careen to the port side after making a banging sound on the bow.

The Coast Guard was quoted as saying that a 22-year-old female crew member and an unidentified man in his 20s have been found dead. A total of 14 people were wounded, and one of them was seriously injured.

Among the 477 passengers, 368 people were rescued as of 1:15 p. m. local time.

The 453 passengers on board included 324 high school students and 14 teachers who had been on the way for a school journey.

The ship departed from South Korea’s western port city of Incheon Tuesday night, heading for the southern resort island of Jeju.

After receiving the distress signal, the South Korean authorities, including police, firehouse, coast guard and navy, dispatched 24 rescue ships and scrambled 16 helicopters to the scene for rescue operations. Source: Xinhua