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South Korean Ferry Sinks: At Least Four Dead, 'Almost 300' Still Missing

16/04/2014 07:40 BST | Updated 17/04/2014 09:59 BST

At least four people have died and hundreds remain unaccounted for after a ferry with more than 400 passengers – mainly school students – sank off the coast of South Korea, according to reports.

Four people have been confirmed dead so far - including a male student, a female crew member and another unidentified man,Sky News reported.

A major rescue operation is still under way, involving 34 naval, coastguard and civilian ships, and 18 helicopters.

Fourteen people have been confirmed as injured.

It was initially reported that a total of 368 people have been rescued - many of them school students but the BBC reported this had now been revised down to 164. Sky News reported 295 people were still missing.

Horrifying reports revealed how hundreds of school children were told to jump off the listing ferry as the stricken vessel began to sink.

One student, Lim Hyung-min, told YTN from a gym on a nearby island he jumped into the ocean wearing a life jacket with other students and then swam to a rescue boat.

"As the ferry was shaking and tilting, we all tripped and bumped into each another," he said, adding some people were bleeding.

He said the ocean "was so cold ... I was hurrying, thinking that I wanted to live."

One mother told South Korea's YTN news channel: "I talked to my daughter. She said she had been rescued along with 10 other students.

"They said they had jumped into the water before getting rescued. One was injured in the leg and is being treated in hospital."

STORY CONTINUES BELOW SLIDESHOW

South Korean Ferry Sinks

Passenger Kim Seung Mok said that, despite his efforts and those of others, he couldn't get to several passengers on one of the decks.

"I stayed till the last to rescue people at the hall," Kim told YTN. "But the water was coming in so fast (that) some didn't make it out."

Navy divers were now searching the scene for those unaccounted for, officials said.

The ferry, with 477 people and 150 vehicles on board, was sailing to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call as it began leaning to one side.

Soon afterwards it had completely capsized, with only the front part of its hull visible above the water.

One witness told YTN television there had been a "loud impact and noise" before it began sinking.