A ferry in South Korea has sent distress signals after it started sinking, reports Reuters. The report says that there are over 450 people onboard the ferry, which was on its way to the island resort of Jeju.
According to the BBC, most of the passengers aboard the ferry are secondary school students from Incheon. The report also says that the distress signal that the ferry sent out was from 20 kms off the island of Byungpoong. The area is over 60 miles off the coast of the South Korean mainland.
South Korean coast guard and naval vessels have been immediately deployed following the receipt of the distress call from the ferry. Initial reports say that some helicopters have already reached the scene. The ferry is listing at a severe angle at the time of filing this report.
“The ferry is taking in water and sinking,” a coastguard spokesperson was quoted saying to the AFP news agency by phone.
He added that commercial ships, helicopters and coast guard vessels in the vicinity have been engaged in rescue operations. Some passengers aboard the ferry have also contacted news channels and talked about hearing a “big thumping noise,” after which the ferry stopped and started taking in water.
“The ferry is tilting and we have to hold on to something to stay seated,” one passenger said.
Korea’s YTN channel reports that more than 100 people have already been rescued from the ferry – although this is an unconfirmed report at this stage.
The ferry, which is also capable of carrying cars and vehicles, reportedly has a capacity of 900 people, reports say. If this is correct, overcrowding doesn’t seem to be a cause of the mishap. Reports also say that many ferry services in the region were cancelled following heavy overnight fog in the area. However, the latest reports say that visibility in the area is normal. No casualties have been reported so far.
This incident comes eight months after a ferry sank near the Philippine coast, claiming over 32 lives. We will update this report once more information comes in.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]