'We Are Not Dead Yet': Passengers Text Loved Ones While Trapped on South Korean Sinking Ferry

( [email protected] ) Apr 17, 2014 06:03 PM EDT
Text messages sent from passengers moments before a ferry sunk off the coast of South Korea reveal the magnitude of the harrowing situation occurring within the boat

Text messages sent from students trapped in the sinking ferry off the coast of South Korea reveal the devastating magnitude of the situation within the vessel.

Passengers waiting for rescue anxiously reached for their phones, sending texts messages to their loved ones as the boat slowly filled with water.

"Dad, don't worry. I've got a life vest on and we're huddled together," one 18-year-old student only known as "Shin" texted her father, Korean news station MBC News reports.

The father replied: "I know the rescue is underway but make your way out if you can."

"Dad, I can't walk out," she replied. "The corridor is full of kids, and it's too tilted."

Shin is one among the 287 currently missing.

Another exchange was between a student and his mother.  

It read: 'No phone connection so there is no Internet connection. So just sending text message.

According to CNN, the text went on: 'There are few people on the ship, can't see a thing, it's totally dark. So there are few men and women, women are screaming, and we are not dead yet, so please send along this message."

The ferry, identified as the Sewol, was venturing to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call as it began tipping sideways. The passengers included more than 300 students on a field trip from Danwon High School in Ansan, near Seoul.

Another student texted his mother, who reportedly didn't know the ferry was in danger.

"Mom, I might not be able to tell you in person. I love you," the student texted, according to MBC.

"Me too, son. I love you," the mother texted back, followed with three heart symbols.

Fortunately, that student was among the 179 people who have been rescued, MBC reported.

Survivors recall a nightmarish of unfolding events, as people slid along the floor of ship, ramming into one another.

"The ship began tilting all of a sudden, and then people started skidding down from above," rescued passenger Young-Ja Shin told SBS News. "There was a railing, so I held onto it, but I then got hit by one of the falling people and we got pushed down to the bottom."

"It took about 10 seconds to tilt over, and then I began sliding from end to end," rescued passenger Eun-Bok Jang, 50, told SBS News. "I got hit on my side and then I couldn't breathe."

Water began rushing in when the vessel turned completely over, creating mass confusion, Jang said.

Although many passengers put on life vests and escaped outside, the ship had already sunk considerably, so there were few exits that could be used for escape, rescued passengers reported.

"When we were making our way out, the wall was almost all water, and it was completely submerged up to the third floor," survivor In-Hwan Kang, 58, told MBC.

So-Hyun Kim, one of the teachers accompanying the students So-Hyun Kim, said she at first she stayed in her cabin but attempted an escape when the water came rushing in.

"I couldn't go anywhere. I didn't have the strength to climb further up," Kim told SBS News. "There was an open emergency exit, so another teacher and I decided to just fall and swim our way toward it. I fell and hit a railing, and that's when I was rescued."

ABC News reports that when darkness fell, the ferry filled with water, displaying only rudder as the vessel sank beneath the water. Rescue teams stopped searching for the missing individuals at about 7 p.m. "due to strong currents and poor visibility," and resumed their search around 12:30 a.m.

Of the 475 passengers on board the ferry, 179 were rescued. Another 287 are currently listed as missing and 9 reported dead.