A ferry carrying 475 passengers and crew sank off the coast of Jindo Island in South Jeolla Province on Wednesday, leaving at least nine people dead and hundreds unaccounted for.
The ferry, the 6,325-ton Sewol, began to sink at about 8:55 am off the coast of Jindo on its way to Jejudo Island from Incheon. According to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, however, the Sewol began to drift in an unexpected direction from 8:52 am.
Of the people on board, woman identified as 22-year-old Park Ji-young, a staff worker for the ferry company, and five students -- Jung Cha-woong, Kwon Oh-chun, Lim Kyung-bin, Park Sung-bin, Park Young-in -- at Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, were confirmed dead.
Two other victims had been recently identified as 25-year-old Choi Hye-jeong, and 35-year-old Nam Yoon-chul, teachers of Danwon High School, and a 28-year-old male named Kim Ki-woong, official said.
As of 11 a.m. Thursday, 179 people were rescued and 287 unaccounted for.
The passengers included 324 students and 14 faculty members from Danwon High School who were traveling to Jejudo Island on a school trip.
The government immediately launched a central response centre, with President Park Geun-hye ordering authorities to concentrate on rescue efforts.
"Efforts should be made to prevent even one casualty, and a thorough search (of the ship) must be carried out to ensure nobody is left behind," Park was quoted as saying by Lee Gyeong-og, second vice minister of security and public administration.