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April 16, 2014

283 missing, 4 dead in South Korea ferry disaster

(Continued)

MOKPO, South Korea —

"We cannot give up," said South Korean President Park Geun-hye, after a briefing in Seoul with officials. "We have to do our best to rescue even one passenger."

Those rescued — wet, stunned and many without shoes — 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 ship had set off from Incheon, a city in South Korea's northwest and the site of the country's main international airport, on Tuesday night for an overnight, 14-hour journey to the tourist island of Jeju.

Three hours from its destination, the ferry sent a distress call at about 9 a.m. Wednesday after it began listing to one side, according to the Ministry of Security and Public Administration. Officials didn't know what caused it to sink and said the focus was still on rescuing survivors.

Lee Gyeong-og, a vice minister for South Korea's Public Administration and Security Ministry, said 30 crew members, 325 high school students, 15 school teachers and 89 non-student passengers were aboard the ship.

Authorities said the dead included a female crew member and two male high school students. A coast guard officer confirmed a fourth fatality but had no immediate details about it.

Kang Byung-kyu, a government minister, said 55 people were injured.

Coast guard officials said late Wednesday that they had found one more person who had been unaccounted for — a 5-year-old girl who was staying alone at a hospital after being rescued — raising the number of survivors to 175. A total of 283 people remained missing.

Yonhap news agency said the 146-meter (480-foot) -long ship, which travels twice a week between Incheon and Jeju, was built in Japan in 1994 and could carry a maximum of 921 people, 180 vehicles and 152 shipping containers.

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