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Hopes Decrease in Search for Survivors of South Korean Ferry


Family members of passengers missing on the overturned South Korean ferry Sewol react to the disaster.

Family members of passengers missing on the overturned South Korean ferry Sewol react to the disaster.

From VOA Learning English, this is In the News.

Almost 270 people are still missing from a boat that sank off the southern coast of South Korea. Most of the missing are high school students.

The South Korean ferry Sewol was carrying about 475 passengers. It sank Wednesday morning near the island of Jindo. More than 25 people are confirmed dead. Rescuers have saved more than 175 people. But hopes of finding more survivors are decreasing.

Some of the passengers jumped in the water and were rescued by ships. Rescue teams and helicopters pulled others from the boat.

Student Kim Tae-yuon survived. He said, “I held a handrail and moved toward the right side of the ferry to ride a helicopter as water kept coming in.”

Another survivor, Cha Eun-ok, described the situation on the boat, “I was keeping still without making any movement. There was an announcement that we should not move.”

Oh Byung-Hwan is the father of a missing student. Like many parents, he expressed anger about the search effort.

He said there was no rescue effort on Wednesday. He said emergency workers could not get into the ferry. He said they just dove around the area.

Cho Kyung-mi is related to a missing student. She said too much time has passed.

She said, “They should have rescued the children on the day it happened. What are they doing now? Three days have passed.” She said, “They must be cold and scared, deep underwater.”
Click to enlarge this map

Click to enlarge this map

Divers could not enter the ship during several rescue attempts. The water in the area is dark and cold with a strong current. Three divers were caught in a current and later rescued.

The release of incorrect information has made it more difficult for parents. Soon after the boat sank, South Korean officials reported all of the students and most of the other passengers had been rescued. But a little later, officials said many fewer people were rescued than first reported.

When the ship began to sink, survivors said that ferry operators told passengers not to move. The media reported of text messages from survivors trapped in the ferry. The reports were later withdrawn.

South Korean media reported that the ship captain was one of the first people to leave the ship. Lee Joon-seok was shown on Korean TV with his head down in an attempt to hide his face. Lee said that he was extremely sorry and did not know what to say.

It is still not clear what caused the ferry to sink. Rescued passengers said they heard a loud noise before the ship began to sink. This led people to guess that the ferry hit a rock. The Coast Guard also said that the ferry did not follow the path suggested by officials.

Captain Lee told a newspaper that he did not hit anything.

Kim Han-sik is president of the company that operates the ferry. He has publicly apologized. He said, “executives and employees of the Chinghaejin Marine Office have committed a grave sin.”

And that’s In The News from VOA Learning English. I’m Mario Ritter.
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