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[Ferry Disaster] Shipwrecked students send heart-wrenching texts

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Published : 2014-04-17 13:21
Updated : 2014-04-18 14:48

“Mom, This might be the last chance to say I love you”

“Dad, I can't get out.”

“Are you okay son? Son? Answer me...”

“The ship is sinking. Dad, I’ll see you outside…”

Texts from the students
Heartrending messages sent from students on the sinking ferry off the coast of Jindo, South Jeolla Province are offering a vivid picture of the frantic situation inside the stricken vessel.

“Mom, this might be the last chance to tell you that I love you,” said one 17-year-old student on the ferry in a text to his mother. Fortunately, the student was among the 78 Danwon High School students who were later rescued.

The mother replied: “Me too, my son. I love you,” without knowing about the fast sinking ferry.

In another exchange, a female student identified by her last name Shin texted her father at 10:04 a.m., trying to calm him.

“Dad, don’t worry. I have my life vest on, and we’re all here together,” she wrote.

Her father replied: “I know that the rescue is underway but shouldn’t you be waiting outside the rail? Try to get out if you can.”

Shin wrote back: “I can’t get out. The corridor is full of kids and it’ll be even more dangerous to move because the ship is tilted.”

Shin is among the 287 people still missing.

In what is likely to be one of the worst maritime accidents in decades, students sent out heartbreaking messages to their loved ones, knowing that it might be the last time to say “I love you.”

A male student surnamed Lee called his father at around 9:20 a.m., telling him about the emergency when the phone suddenly cut off.

Lee’s father texted him, asking “What do you mean the ship is sinking? The phone is disconnected.” He heard nothing back from his son.

Two hours later, Lee’s father texted him again: “Did you arrive at Jejudo Island? Are you okay? Son?” But again, the father got no reply.

One student by the messenger nickname “Woongki” texted his older brother, “The ship ran into something and it’s not moving. They say the Coast Guard just arrived.”

His brother calmly replied: “The rescue team will come to you soon. There’s no need to rush around or be confused. Hold yourself together and do what they tell you to do. Text me again when you get data connection.”

At around 9:20 a.m., one of the 14 teachers from the high school sent a group text message to her students, “I’ll see you kids outside. I love you all.”

Text messages that claim to have been sent from missing children trapped inside the submerged ferry fast spread online Wednesday evening, adding to parents’ agony and fear.

“I’m Choi Hye-rin from class 9, and I’m alive. I’m in the cafeteria,” said one message a parent waiting in a Jindo gymnasium showed to reporters Thursday morning.

“Many others alive. We need help. We’re running out of battery. Please trust me,” it continued.

But police said they have yet to confirm whether the text messages were actually sent from the students inside.

The multi-story ferry carrying 475 people, mostly Danwon High School students, tipped over at 8:58 a.m. on Wednesday, leaving almost 300 people missing out at sea despite overnight rescue efforts.

“It took less than 10 seconds to flip over to the side and there was huge chaos with vending machines falling over,” a survivor from the ship named Jang Eun-bok told reporters.

Students passed along life vests and were told not to move, which many experts say may have worsened the disaster.

The number of people unaccounted for is raising concerns that the death toll could rise to nearly 290, making it one of the worst maritime accidents in South Korea after the 1993 ferry disaster when 292 people died.

Rescuers said they will start to pump oxygen into the sunken ship at around 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.

By Suk Gee-hyun (monicasuk@heraldcorp.com)

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