TORONTO – At least four people are confirmed dead and 55 injured in a ferry sinking off South Korea.
Authorities say the number of missing suggests the death toll could be substantially higher.
The ferry was carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island.
Nearly 300 people are still unaccounted for.
Some 160 coast guard and navy divers were searching for survivors inside the ship’s wreckage, a few kilometres from the shore of Byeongpung Island, which is not far from the mainland.
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 disasters since 1993 when 292 people died.
Rescuers clambered over its sides, pulling out passengers wearing orange life jackets.
Those rescued were brought to nearby Jindo Island, where medical teams wrapped them in pink blankets and checked them for injuries before settling them down on the floor of a cavernous gymnasium hall.
“The water started to flow over the fences, and I instinctively felt that I definitely needed to get out of the ship,” said one rescued passenger who was being treated by medics. “So I tried breaking the window at the front of cabin using a fire extinguisher, hitting it three times, but it wouldn’t break.”
– with a file from The Associated Press
© Shaw Media, 2014