UPDATE as of 3:30 pm: 9 deaths confirmed. Toll expected to rise. Over 179 rescued.
A miscalculation by government officials had turned a supposed successful rescue operation of a sinking South Korean ferry into a major disaster. At least have six died and 300, mostly high school students, remain missing.
South Korean passenger ferry Sewol met an accident on sea and started sinking. There were 477 registered people onboard, including 150 vehicles, officials said. Earlier in the search-and-rescue operations, the Ministry of Security and Public Administration said 368 people had been rescued and that only 100 remain missing, The New Straits Times Press reported.
It was actually the reverse in reality as more than 300 people remain missing on Thursday, the South Korean coastguard said. Only 164 so far have been confirmed rescued. Of the six who have died, two were students.
On Thursday, South Korean coastguards and navy divers resumed searching. There was a heavy fog overnight off the west coast, forcing the cancellation of many ferry services.
Students Text Heart-Breaking Messages
Some parents of the 300 missing passengers, who happen to be mostly high school students from Danwon school near the capital Seoul, reported receiving heart-breaking messages once they realised the boat is sinking and that they may never survive.
"Mom, this might be my last chance to tell you I love you," one youth said in a text message, according to the Los Angeles Times. His mother replied, but did not get an answer.
"Dad, I can't walk out because the ship is tilted too much, and I don't see anyone in the corridor," quoted South Korea's YTN news channel.
The students, along with their teachers, were on a field trip to Jeju island, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the Korean peninsula onboard the 6,825-tonne Sewol ferry.
Another father reportedly received this text message from his 18-year-old daughter: "Don't worry too much dad, I am wearing a life vest and with my friends. I am inside. Still in the hallway." He replied asking whether she should go outside: "No dad, I can't go outside. There are many kids in the hallway, and it is tilted too high."
"My tears have dried up," one mother of the missing high school students said. "I am holding on to hope. I hope the government does everything to bring these kids back to their mothers."
Survivors Share Crucial Moments
Perhaps if the other missing passengers had decided not to heed the announcement, they would probably be still alive now, thus said some of the passengers rescued from the Sewol ferry.
"An on-board announcement told people to stay put... people who stayed are trapped," the Independent quoted Cha Eun-ok, a passenger who happened to be on the deck taking photographs at the time of the accident.
"The rescue wasn't done well. We were wearing life jackets. We had time," Koo Bon-hee, a 36-year-old businessman, said from his hospital bed. He stressed he as well as some other passengers waited for 30 minutes before floating to an exit and swimming to a fishing boat.
"If people had jumped into the water... they could have been rescued. But we were told not to go out."
A 57-year-old man only identified as Yoo by Yonhap News said a broadcast told them to just stay put wherever they were. "But I couldn't because the water level was rising. I wore the safety jacket and came out. If they told us to evacuate immediately, it would have been better."