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292 missing in South Korean ferry disaster

Last updated on: April 16, 2014 15:57 IST

292 missing in South Korean ferry disaster

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A multi-storey ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast today, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by ships and helicopters.

At least three people were confirmed dead and 55 injured.

The high number of people unaccounted for likely trapped in the ship or floating in the ocean raised fears that the death toll could rise drastically, making it one of South Korea's biggest ferry mishaps since 1993 when 292 people died.

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Image: In this handout image provided by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard, a passenger ferry sinks off the coast of Jindo Island in Jindo-gun, South Korea
Photographs: Courtesy Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images

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292 missing in South Korean ferry disaster

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Authorities could not immediately say what caused the ship to sink. 

The weather at the time of the incident in the area was clear.

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Image: In this handout image provided by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard, passengers are rescued by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard from a ferry sinking off the coast of Jindo Island
Photographs: Courtesy Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images

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292 missing in South Korean ferry disaster

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Dramatic television aerial vision showed terrified passengers wearing life jackets clambering into inflatable boats as water lapped over the rails of the vessel as it sank.

Some could be seen sliding down the steeply inclined side of the ferry and into the water, as rescuers, including the crew of what appeared to be a small fishing boat, struggled to pull them to safety.

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Image: In this handout image provided by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard, a passenger ferry sinks off the coast of Jindo Island
Photographs: Courtesy Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images

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292 missing in South Korean ferry disaster

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Lee Gyeong-og, the vice minister of security and public administration, told a press briefing in Seoul on Wednesday that divers, including a team of South Korean navy SEALs, were continuing to search the submerged vessel.

"There is so much mud in the sea water and the visibility is very low," he added.

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Image: In this handout image provided by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard, rescue work by members of the Republic of Korea Coast Guard continues around the ferry sinking off the coast of Jindo Island
Photographs: Courtesy Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images

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292 missing in South Korean ferry disaster

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The 6825-tonne ferry, which had sailed out of the western port of Incheon on Tuesday evening, ran into trouble about 20 kilometres off the southern island of Byungpoong.

The vessel listed sharply and capsized within two hours of sending a distress signal at 05:30 am IST

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Image: In this handout image provided by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard, passengers are rescued by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard from a ferry sinking off the coast of Jindo Island
Photographs: Courtesy Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images

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292 missing in South Korean ferry disaster

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A majority of the passengers were students from a high school in Ansan city near Seoul who were on their way to the Jeju island for a four-day trip, according to a relief team set up by GyeonggiProvince, which governs the city.

A total of 18 helicopters and 34 rescue boats had been sent to the area


Image: In this handout image provided by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard, a passenger ferry sinks off the coast of Jindo Islan
Photographs: Courtesy Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images

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