UK & World News
Ferry Disaster: Hopes Of Finding Survivors Fade
Rescue teams are battling bad weather conditions as they search for 282 people who remain missing after a South Korean ferry capsized and sank.
Fourteen people have been confirmed dead, according to Reuters, and that number is expected to increase sharply in what could be the country's worst maritime accident in two decades.
Those confirmed dead include a female teacher, a female member of the crew and three male school students, while the majority of those who remain unaccounted for are from the same school field trip.
So far 179 people have been rescued - among them Kwon Ji-yeon, a six-year-old girl whose parents are still on the missing list.
Strong currents and bad visibility hampered the search on Thursday as rescue teams hammered on the Sewol's hull, hoping in vain for a response.
One coastguard official told AFP that, almost two days since the ship sank, he thought "the chances of finding anyone alive are close to zero".
The ferry's captain, 69-year-old Lee Joon-seok, faces a criminal investigation, a coastguard official told Reuters, amid unconfirmed reports that he was one of the first to jump to safety.
A man identified by broadcaster YTN and news agency Yonhap as Mr Yoon has appeared on television, his face covered by a grey hoodie.
"I'm really sorry and deeply ashamed," he said, as he was being questioned at the Mokpo coastguard.
Video footage has emerged showing passengers in life jackets as the boat began to sink and of a tannoy message asking people to stay where they are as it would be dangerous to move.
Crew member Oh Yong-seok, 58, said the captain waited around 30 minutes before ordering the evacuation because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilise the vessel after it started to list.
By the time the evacuation order was made, it was impossible for crew to reach passengers because the ship was tilted at such an acute angle.
"We couldn't even move one step. The slope was too big," said Mr Oh, who escaped with around a dozen others, including the captain.
Passenger Koo Bon-hee, 36, told reporters that many people were trapped inside by windows that were too hard to break.
Distraught family members are gathered on the quay of Jindo Island, huddled in blankets against the cold as they wait for any news.
"If I could teach myself to dive, I would jump in the water and try to find my daughter," Park Yung-suk told Reuters.
Some relatives have turned their anger on the government and coastguard, shouting at officials: "The weather's nice, why aren't you starting the rescue?"
The ship set sail from the port of Incheon on Tuesday carrying 475 passengers, nearly 340 of them teenagers and teachers from the Danwon school near the capital Seoul.
Its destination, along a well-travelled route, was Jeju island around 60 miles (100km) south of the Korean peninsula.
It is not clear why the 6,586-ton vessel, which was built in Japan 20 years ago, sank in apparently calm waters.
However, some survivors spoke of hearing a loud noise before disaster struck.
State broadcaster YTN quoted investigation officials as saying the ship was off its usual course after being hit by strong winds, which caused containers stacked on deck to shift.
The registered owner of the ship, Chonghaejin Marine Co Ltd, has offered an apology but declined to comment further.