Death toll rises to 288 in South Korea ferry tragedy
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Death toll rises to 288 in South Korea ferry tragedy

IN BRIEF: A passenger ferry capsized and sank off the coast of South Korea on Wednesday, April 16 with more than 470 passengers on board. So far 288 deaths have been confirmed, 172 people were rescued, and 16 people are still missing.

*** All times are Korean time ***

4.55pm: Associated Press reports that President Park Geun-hye has “nominated a new prime minister and accepted the resignations of two senior officials in what is seen as the start of a government shake-up after last month’s ferry disaster.”

2pm, Thursday: The death toll was unchanged Thursday afternoon with 288 confirmed dead and 16 people still unaccounted for.

10.43am, Wednesday: The official death toll from the South Korea ferry tragedy has risen to 288. Sixteen people are still missing.

8.05pm: One more body was recovered from the sunken Sewol ferry Monday, bringing the number confirmed dead to 287. Seventeen people are still unaccounted for.

10.05am, Monday: South Korea’s president says she will push to disband coast guard after ferry disaster

8.14pm, Sunday: The death toll in the Sewol ferry tragedy has risen to 286 over the weekend, with 18 still missing.

11.38am, Thursday: South Korean prosecutors have indicted Sewol ferry captain Lee Joon-seok and three crew members on charges of homicide and neglect of duty. If convicted they could face the death penalty. Eleven other crew members were indicted on lesser charges. More details here.

4.13pm, Wednesday: Five more bodies were recovered from the sunken Sewol ferry today, bringing the official death toll to 281. Twenty-three people are still missing.


A volunteer grieves near yellow ribbons with messages for the victims and missing passengers of the sunken Sewol ferry. Pic: AP.

6.04pm: Associated Press reports:

An investigation team probing the ferry’s sinking formally arrested an employee of a private safety device inspection company on Monday. Prosecutor Yang Jung-jin said the employee is suspected of carrying out poor inspections on the ferry’s safety equipment.

5.42pm: One more body was recovered from the sunken Sewol ferry off the coast of South Korea today, bringing the official death toll to 276. Twenty-eight people are still missing.

11.28am, Tuesday: Divers resumed their search of the sunken Sewol ferry in the early hours of this morning. The death toll remains unchanged at 275, with 29 still missing.

7.44pm: Associated Press reports that high seas prevented the search of the sunken ferry from resuming on Monday.

12.19pm, Monday: The search for the 29 people still missing is set to resume this afternoon after it was hampered by poor conditions over the weekend.

2.54pm: There have been reports that the sunken Sewol ferry is beginning to collapse. Twenty-nine people remain missing.

12pm, Saturday: The death toll in the ferry tragedy rose to 275 Saturday morning, with 29 people still missing. However, the search was suspended due to bad weather.


People hold candles during a rally to pay tribute to the victims and missing passengers of the sunken ferry Sewol in Ansan, South Korea, Friday. Pic: AP.

7.48pm: BREAKING: 3 weeks after South Korean ferry sank, government says it miscounted survivors; 172, not 174.

2.18pm, Wednesday: Two more bodies have been recovered from the sunken Sewol ferry. The death toll now stands at 269, with 33 still missing.

7.46pm: The death toll rose to 269 Tuesday, with 3s people still missing, almost three weeks after the Sewol ferry sank.


Monks march during a Buddhist ceremony for cherishing the memory of the deceased and the missing passengers of the sunken ferry Sewol, at a port in Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday. Pic: AP.

10.37am: The death toll in the South Korea ferry tragedy has risen to 263. Thirty-nine people are still missing.

10.34am, Tuesday:


10.33am, Monday: Associated Press reports that  a civilian diver involved in searches for dozens of missing people from a ferry disaster has died.


Government task force spokesman Ko Myung-seok said the diver died at a hospital Tuesday after becoming unconscious following searches off the southern coast, where the Sewol sank on April 16. Other task force team officials say the 53-year-old diver was pulled to the surface by fellow divers after losing communication.


9.33pm: The death toll has now risen to 262, with 40 people still missing.


11am, Monday: The death toll in the ferry tragedy has now risen to 259 after 11 more bodies were found Monday morning. Forty-three people are still missing.


6pm, Sunday:


South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, consoles a relative of a passenger aboard the sunken Sewol ferry at the site where the ship sank in waters off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea. Pic: AP.


3pm, Sunday: Associated Press reports:


South Korean President Park Geun-hye has told families of those missing in a sunken ferry that her heart breaks knowing what they are going through, as divers recovered two more bodies from the ship. Park met Sunday with some 50 relatives in Paengmok port on Jindo, an island near where the ferry sank April 16 with 476 people aboard. The death toll reached 244 with 60 still missing. Park told relatives: “I’ve gone through the grief of losing family, so I understand it well.” She was referring to the violent deaths of both parents, one of whom was a South Korean dictator. She added, “My heart breaks to think about how you must feel.” Park has previously apologized for the government’s inept initial response to the disaster.


7.41pm: This tragic video via @AFP shows students joking as ferry began to list:

7.14pm: Yonhap News reports that the owners of the Sewol ferry have been given an ultimatum by South Korean prosecutors after they refused to comply with two summons.


1.45pm, Friday: The death toll in the Sewol ferry tragedy has risen to 226. Seventy-six people are still missing.




11.35am, Thursday: One more body was recovered from the sunken Sewol ferry Thursday, bringing the death toll to 213. Eighty-nine people are still missing.6.48pm: Two weeks after the Sewol ferry sank, the death toll has risen to 212, reports Yonhap News. Ninety people are still missing.

Strong currents and bad weather hampered divers’ efforts to search the sunken ferry Sewol for 90 people still missing on Wednesday, with the death toll rising to 212 two weeks after the tragic incident.

4.48pm, Wednesday:Seventy of the 74 Danwon High School students who survived the Sewol tragedy attended a memorial service today.


Surviving students wearing white shirts pay tribute to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Ansan, south of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday. Pic: AP.

5.53pm: Yonhap News reports that the death toll has now risen to 205:

The [12] bodies were recovered from the sunken ferry Sewol on Tuesday afternoon, raising the death toll to 205, according to the Coast Guard. Still, 97 passengers remain unaccounted for.

12.40pm, Tuesday: The death toll in the ferry disaster has now risen to 193. President Park Geun-hye earlier apologized for the tragedy, saying that South Korea has “lost many precious lives because of the accident, and I am sorry to the public and am heavy-hearted.” She said the government couldn’t prevent the accident and “the initial response and remedy were insufficient.”


South Korean President Park Geun-hye pays tribute to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Ansan, south of Seoul, Tuesday. Pic: AP.

6.55pm, Monday: The death toll has now risen to 189. Divers have been hampered by poor conditions over the past couple of days.



Buddhists release paper lanterns Saturday in a service for cherishing the memory of deceased persons and safe return of passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol during the Lotus Lantern Festival for the upcoming birthday of Buddha on May 6. Pic: AP.


2.50pm: Associated Press reports:

A prosecutor investigating the South Korean ferry sinking that left 302 people dead or missing says all 15 crew members involved in the ship’s navigation are now in custody.

2.20pm, Saturday: The death toll in the Sewol ferry tragedy is now at 187, with 115 people still missing. 6.28pm: US President Barack Obama is speaking live in Korea now. He offers his condolences on the Sewol ferry tragedy: “I can only imagine what the parents are going though at this moment.”   4.50pm: Joseph Kim in Jindo and Rosyn Park in Seoul bring us this exclusive report – Sewol ferry tragedy: Signs of hope despite incompetence at every level. Key excerpts:

Currently 11 out of the 15 surviving crewmembers of Sewol are being charged with negligent homicide. Among them includes Lee Joon-seok, the captain who was in charge of the Sewol at the time of the accident, who faces criminal charges of manslaughter with a punishment of lifetime imprisonment. Though the investigation has not closed, a majority hold the captain responsible for the incident with records showing he was among the first to be rescued, not in uniform (unusual for a ship’s captain), and admittedly in his room at the time of the events leading up the ship’s capsizing.   …   In recent years, the [ferry] company has bounced back from the brink of bankruptcy. Many believe that this is primarily due to the company’s decision to transport commercial cargo. Many passengers heard a loud “bang” before the ship capsized, which experts believe was cargo that was not properly locked down hitting the walls of the ship.   … When emotions are still open and raw, looking at who is to blame and how and why this accident came to be extends far beyond the ill-fated ferry’s control room. Prosecutors and police have swiftly widened the scope of their investigation, issuing travel bans, arrest warrants, and pinning down charges. At the same time, the government has been scrambling to handle the situation from the top down. President Park Geun-hye vowed on Monday to hold all related parties accountable for the lack of oversight that contributed to this tragedy. But it was followed with more erroneous government data, bungled attempts to form a coordinated central command and no results of survivors.

Thousands of yellow ribbons have sprung up across the country. They are a sign of hope in support of the missing victims and their families. Started by a local university club, the small campus campaign served as a reminder to not lose hope. The campaign spread rapidly, going viral before physical yellow ribbons were being hung in different cities. Now, it symbolizes much more than longing for a miracle, it represents an entire nation’s intent to not lose faith during such dark times – almost a promise to never let such a tragedy happen again.

Yellow ribbons and a flower decorate the main gate of Danwon High School in Ansan, south of Seoul this week. Pic: AP.

4.45pm: The following message was written by a sibling of one of the young victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy.

I will not become an adult that says things are out of my control. That this disastrous accident was inevitable. That because of incompetence it was inevitable. That because their work is to be a reporter or a policeman, their actions are inevitable. Our country is South Korea and so it was inevitable.

3.38pm: The death toll now stands at 182. There are 120 people still missing.   11.36am: Yonhap News reports that the death toll is now up to 181.   11.05am, Friday:


1.38pm, Thursday: The death toll has now risen to 169. The search continues. 6.41pm: CNN is reporting that 11 crew members from the Sewol ferry have now been arrested. 6.21pm:


3.14pm, Wednesday:The death toll in the ferry tragedy has risen to 150.


Pic: AP.


7.10pm: Yonhap News agency reports that the death toll from the ferry tragedy has risen to 113 after five more bodies were recovered. 6.57pm:

4.27pm: Yonhap News reports that the crewmember who tried to kill himself has been placed under arrest for neglect of duty. He is the fifth crewmember to be placed under arrest. 1.53pm: The death toll has now risen to 108.

12.43pm: Associated Press reports that South Korean officials are now saying the ferry did not take a sharp turn before sinking, as was previously reported:

A ministry of ocean and fisheries official had said Friday that the vessel had taken a sharp turn. But on Tuesday a ministry official said in a phone interview that the AIS data had been incomplete. He says the true path of the ship became clear when the data was fully restored. The official declined to elaborate or give his name.


11am, Tuesday: Yonhap News reports that the death toll in the ferry disaster is now at 104. About 200 people are still missing.

The death toll from the 6,825-ton ferry Sewol hit 104 early Tuesday as divers retrieved 17 more bodies as their search focused on decks of the five-story vessel, where most of those unaccounted for are believed to have been trapped. On the previous day, a total of 28 bodies were recovered from the section.

12.58pm: The Associated Press reports that four more crew members have been detained on allegations of failing to protect passengers:

Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told reporters Monday that two first mates, one second mate and a chief engineer are also accused of abandoning the ship. Ahn says prosecutors are considering whether to ask a court for a formal arrest warrant that would allow for a longer period of investigation. South Koreans can only be detained for 48 hours without a court-issued formal arrest warrant.

12.18pm: At least one South Korean news source has quoted President Park Geun-hye as saying that the actions of captain and some crew are incomprehensible and “tantamount to murder”. 11.59am, Monday: Yonhap News agency reports that the death toll has now risen to 64:

The death toll from a sunken ferry off South Korea’s south coast rose to 64 on Monday as divers stepped up their search for passengers remaining missing in the disaster.

6.30pm: Associated Press reports:

JINDO, South Korea (AP) — A transcript released Sunday of communications with the South Korean ferry that sank details crippling confusion and indecision, with a crew member questioning whether an evacuation was the right move well after the ship began listing dangerously. “If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?” the ferry Sewol asked Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center (VTS) at 9:24 a.m. Wednesday, about a half-hour after the ship began listing. That followed several statements from the ship, beginning at 9 a.m., that people aboard couldn’t move, and another in which the ship said it was “impossible to broadcast” instructions.

2.22pm: The death toll has now risen to 56 as divers are continuing their search inside the ferry.

1.36pm: A number of sources are reporting that the death toll has now risen to 52.

12.20pm: The official death toll from the Sewol ferry disaster has now risen to 46. AP reports:

Divers have recovered 10 more bodies from inside the ferry that sank off South Korea. The confirmed death toll is now 46.

Officials said Sunday the bodies were recovered following divers gaining access to the inside of the ferry after three days of failed attempts due to strong currents. Details of how they got inside the ship weren’t immediately clear. More than 255 people, most of them high school students on a holiday trip, are missing. There are only 174 known survivors.



The bodies of passengers aboard the Sewol ferry are carried by rescue workers upon their arrival at a port in Jindo, Sunday. Pic: AP.


2.18pm: From Associated Press:

A prosecutor says the captain of the South Korean ferry that sank two days ago has been arrested. Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin Yonhap says 68-year-old Lee Joon-seok and the crew members were detained early Saturday.


Lee Joon-seok, center, the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, talks to the media before leaving a court which issued his arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday. Pic: AP.

10am, Saturday:

7.26pm: Yonhap News Agency is reporting that “arrest warrants sought” for the captain of the doomed Sewol ferry and two crew members. 6.12pm: AP reports:

Police say a high school vice principal who had been rescued from a sinking South Korean ferry has been found hanging from a tree. The news of the death came Friday as rescuers scrambled to find hundreds of people still missing from the ferry and feared dead. The passengers included 325 second-year students from Danwon High School heading to a southern island on a four-day trip.

6.10pm: The suicide of Danwon High School vice principal brings the total death toll from the tragedy to 29. 5.58pm: Yonhap News Agency reports on the suicide of Danwon High School vice principal.

A vice principal, who was in charge of hundreds of high school students on a ferry trip that turned into a tragedy when the ship sank earlier this week, was found dead Friday in an apparent suicide, officials said. The senior teacher from Danwon High School near Seoul, identified by his surname Kang, 52, was found hanging from a tree on a hill near an indoor gymnasium on the island of Jindo, where parents of the students missing from the sunken ferry are staying.





3.54pm: We believe that eight divers did enter the ship earlier, but with limited success. 3.52pm: Certain elements of the media are not being too respectful towards the grieving families.

12.41pm: The death toll has now risen to 28 and the ferry has disappeared from view, possibly suggesting that existing air pockets inside the ferry have collapsed.


A rescue team looks on as the Sewol ferry disappears from view. Pic: AP.

12.18pm: The potential death toll in the Sewol ferry disaster is 296, significantly higher than the 239 people on board the disappeared Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. 12.12pm: There are conflicting reports as to whether divers have already entered the Sewol ferry. We’ll confirm as soon as possible. 12pm:


10am, Friday: Coast guard says divers have begun pumping air into submerged South Korean ferry, but it’s unclear whether this is in the hope of finding survivors or it’s a salvage operation. 6.50pm:



Pic: AP.


5.41pm: Yonhap News Agency is reporting that one Russian student and two Chinese among the missing passengers. 5.35pm:

4.21pm: The captain of the Sewol ferry, who is suspected to be among the first to leave the stricken ship, has apologized to families:



2.59pm: Yonhap News Agency is reporting that the shipwreck area may be declared a special disaster zone:

The government is considering designating the southeastern town of Jindo and coastal areas nearby as a special disaster zone to extend speedy and full-scale support for the victims of a deadly ship sinking, officials said Thursday.



12.46pm: Rescue efforts are being hampered by poor weather conditions. 12.08pm:



A relative waits for news of their missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea. Pic: AP.


11.17am: The South Korean government has now raised the death toll to nine people. More than 280 people are still unaccounted for.

11.14am: Joseph Kim tweets:



South Korean Coast Guard officers try to rescue missing passengers from the sunken ferry Thursday morning. Pic: AP.


10.28am, Thursday: The death toll from the Sewol ferry disaster off the coast of South Korea has risen to eight. Families are still anxiously waiting for news of loved ones aboard the ship. Cranes are being dispatched to the rescue site.

10.47pm: The South Korean government has raised the death toll to five. Joseph Kim is reporting for us from Seoul. Key excerpts:

In the government’s latest tally, South Korea says 280 people from the ferry that capsized in the Yellow Sea south of Seoul are still missing and five people have died.

The vessel ‘Sewol’ was delayed two hours at the Incheon seaport last night due to foggy weather. The ministry reports that at 8.58am KST the coast guard received a distress call and within two hours the ship was capsized.

While the exact reason behind the incident is still being investigated, survivors are saying they heard a loud “boom” – which is what many believe caused the ferry to submerge. Following the noise, passengers say they saw cranes toppling over. According to those rescued, the boat’s intercom system told everyone to stay calm and remain where they are for their “safety,” even restricting those who wanted to go out from leaving. It was not until the room started flooding that the instructions changed. Due to the pressure and force of the water, doors were almost too heavy to open while many shouted to “break the windows.” Apparently, the PA system told those already outside to jump into the water.

A witness who narrowly escaped says that he thinks there were 30 people still trapped in the area he was able to get away from.

Many suspect that the unaccounted for are stuck within the boat with South Korean analysts saying there is approximately 72 hours before they run out of oxygen.

7.39pm: A number of news outlets are reporting that the death toll from the sinking of the Sewol ferry has now risen to four.






Passengers from the Sewol ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast are rescued by coast guards in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday. Pic: AP.

6.13pm: Survivors say they heard a loud thud and felt the ship shake just before it began to list.

5.38pm: Asian Correspondent blogger Joseph Kim reports for Australia News Network on the sinking of the Sewol ferry:

5.19pm: A map showing where the ferry sank in this tweet from AFP:


4.27pm: Yonhap TV News is reporting that  90 ships and 11 helicopters are involved in the Sewol ferry rescue operation.

4.24pm: A gallery of the rescue efforts… In pictures: Rescue operation underway after SKorean ferry sinks

4.15pm: South Korea government says 295 still missing several hours after ferry sinks; 2 dead. As the picture below shows, the ship is now almost entirely submerged.


Pic: AP.

UPDATE: Reports say 107 people are still missing after the Sewol passenger ferry capsized earlier today.

UPDATE: Reuters is reporting that the death toll has risen to 2:

About 160 passengers, including high school students, were plucked to safety on Wednesday in a dramatic rescue from a South Korean passenger ferry sinking with 475 on board, officials said, although at least two people had died.

South Korean officials said the rescue operation was still underway and it was difficult to offer any confirmed information about the remaining 300 or so people on board.

UPDATE: BBC is reporting 1 person has died after ferry capsized off Korean coast today.


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A government office says a South Korean passenger ship carrying about 470 people has sent a distress call off the southern coast after it began leaning to one side.

South Korean media, including Yonhap news agency, say passengers were asked to jump overboard with life vests as the ship was on the verge of sinking. News reports say about 120 people have already been rescued.

The Busan Regional Maritime Affairs & Port Administration says in a statement that the ferry with 471 people was sailing to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call Wednesday morning.

There are no immediate reports of casualities.

Agency officials say they have no further details. Calls to South Korea’s coast guard headquarters weren’t immediately answered.