The passenger ship “Sewol” is sinking off 20 kilometers north of Jindo, South Korea on April 16, 2014.
South Korea dispatched coast guard, military rescue boats and helicopters to aid a passenger ferry carrying 476 people that’s sinking off the nation’s southwest coast.
About 110 of the 476 passengers, including high school students, have been rescued so far, Ministry of Security and Public Administration Vice Minister Lee Gyeong Og said in a televised briefing. No passengers have been harmed as yet, Mokpo coast guard official Park Jung Il said by phone. The vessel is owned and operated by Chonghaejin Marine Co., a company official said by phone, asking not to be named citing internal policy.
President Park Geun Hye called for zero casualties from the incident, and the government’s response is being overseen by the chief presidential security adviser, according to a statement on the Blue House’s website.
YTN TV footage showed the vessel, named “Sewol” or “time and tide” in Korean, mostly submerged on its side in calm waters 20 kilometers (12 miles) off Byeongpoong island, northwest of Jeju island. The ship may have hit rocks in heavy fog, the broadcaster said, citing a South Korean government official.
A total of 324 from Danwon High School southwest of Seoul were on board the ship, accompanied by 14 teachers, school official Kim Tae Eun said by phone. All of the students and teachers have been rescued, Kim said, citing his communication with South Korean coast guard. They were on a school excursion to Jeju island, Kim said.
The Chonghaejin Marine official said the ship was carrying 447 people, without elaborating.
The 6,825-ton ferry can carry as many as 921 passengers and 130 vehicles traveling between Incheon and South Korea’s Jeju Island, popular among honeymooners and holiday-makers. Privately-held Chonghaejin Marine operates two vessels on the Incheon-Jeju route as well as two other services in the southern coastal area, according to the company’s website.
The ferry left Incheon two hours late yesterday due to fog, Yonhap News reported. It was also carrying 120 cars, the agency said.
South Korea has been investing in new cruise terminals in Incheon and other coastal cities to attract more tourists from China and Japan. That has prompted companies such as Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the world’s second-largest cruise line, to expand into Asia as economic growth is making it more affordable for people to travel by ships