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Updates for passenger ferry sinking Updated: 2014-04-16 22:05:50 KST

Updates for passenger ferry sinking
We start with the devastating loss of life from the sinking of a passenger ferry off the southwestern coast of Korea earlier Wednesday,
The Coast Guard has confirmed at least four deaths so far.
On board were over 460 people, about 320 of which were students traveling with several teachers to the resort island of Jeju.
We connect now to our Park Ji-won from the news center for more details about the accident. Ji-won.

The Saewol-ho ferry started to sink sometime around 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, some 20 kilometers off the coast of Jindo Island in southwestern Korea.
At least four people have been confirmed dead so far, including a ferry employee Park Ji-young in her 20s, and a male high schooler, who was on board because of the school trip, and two others who have not yet been identified.
So far, the number of people rescued stands at 174, with the remaining 280 or so people still missing.

Finding the missing passengers alive seems like a race against time.
How's the rescue operation going on now?

The government is in all-out efforts to save any possible survivors.
President Park Geun-hye and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin have ordered that all Navy, Coast Guard and nearby vessels help with the efforts.
Dozens of ships, 18 aircrafts, along with hundreds of specialized forces and scuba divers are actively searching for survivors.
However, rescue operations are getting more difficult as the night goes on, and the search operation has been stopped for the time being.
But they will resume the search in under an hour at one a.m.

So, Jiwon, give us some details of what happened when the ferry started to sink.

Survivors say it was around eight thirty, that the ferry decided to set off, and it wasn't long after that the passengers heard a loud bang sound - and the ship suddenly started to tilt by 60 degrees.
Let's listen to what survivors say about the moment.

"I screamed for 30 to 40 minutes in the ferry. Things were falling and people were sliding down the ship."

"The waves were calm when the ferry set off. Then all of a sudden, the ship felt like it flipped on its side, violently. People were cornered and they couldn't get out of their cabins, because they couldn't open the doors. The ship tilted by 60 degrees, and slowly inclined to 90 degrees, before capsizing,.. and that was when I was rescued."

Jiwon, considering that it took over two hours for the ship to sink and with rescuers arriving relatively quickly the number of missing seems quite high.
Could an announcement for passengers to stay put have played a role?

Yes, survivors say they were instructed to stay indoors by announcements.
That seems to have caused more people trapped in their cabins.
The Coast Guard also say there is a high possibility that passengers may have gotten trapped when the power was cut off after the ship suddenly tilted.
And let's listen to a student survivor about the situation.

"I remained at the site because I was instructed to. But suddenly water came up and everything became chaos. People screamed with fear."

Jiwon, early on, the reported number of reported rescued was much higher earlier in the day, giving some hope to families and the nation. Why was there a sudden change in the figure?

Yes, up until three in the afternoon, the numer of missing people was known to be around one hundred or less, however, the government held a briefing at four p.m. saying, the actual number of missing people was nearly 3-hundred,. much higher that the earlier figure, because there were errors in counting the rescued.
About two-hundred people were double-counted, causing the confusion in the figure.
Let's take a look.

"The reason for the confusion in the number of rescued people, the reason it was revised down from the earlier figure of 368 to the current 164, is because some of those who were rescued were counted twice."

Any indications on what caused the accident?

We don't have any clear, confirmed facts, but we should note that the ferry was driven by a backup captain, as the original captain was on vacation.
And the ship set off later than its expected schedule, due to heavy fog, so the substitute captain changed the ship's route to try and arrive at the destination, Jeju Island, on time.
We also know that the site of the sinking is known to be filled with rocks.
Let's listen to what an expert, Jung Yun-chul Professor of Navigation Science at Korea Maritime and Ocean University, has to say about it.

"I think the highest possibile reason for the sinking is its crashing into unidentified rocks.
The site of the accident is pretty close to the shore, so I believe unidentified rocks may have caused the sinking. We can also suspect other reasons for the cause of the accident, like an explosion inside the ship, that might have caused the sinking."

Officials say the next step of the recovery will be the use of three giant floating cranes to begin lifting the vessel.

Ok, Jiwon, thank you for that report.
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