“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…”
These heartbreaking messages give just a glimpse into the horror experienced by students on board the sinking ferry off the coast of South Korea.
As the passenger ferry carrying 462 people slowly sank Wednesday, high school students sent calm and measured messages to their frantic parents.
“Mom, this might be the last chance to tell you that I love you,” the Korea Herald reported one 17-year-old student on the ferry sent in a text to his mother.
The mother replied: “Me too, my son. I love you” – without knowing about her son being on the doomed vessel.
Fortunately, the student was among the 77 Danwon High School students who were later rescued – but many other parents have yet to be reunited with their children, and hopes are rapidly fading.
In another exchange, a female student identified by her last name Shin texted her father at 10:04am, 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.
At around 9:20 am, 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.”
Chillingly, text messages that claim to have been sent from missing children still trapped inside the submerged ferry fast spread online Wednesday evening, adding to parents’ agony, the Herald reported.
“I’m Choi Hye-rin from class 9, and I’m alive. I’m in the cafeteria,” said one message, that a parent showed to reporters Thursday morning.
“Many others alive. We need help. We’re running out of battery. Please trust me,” it continued.
Police said they have yet to confirm whether the text messages were sent from the students inside.
The multi-story ferry carrying 475 people, mostly High School students, tipped over at 8:58 am on Wednesday, leaving almost 300 people missing out at sea despite overnight rescue efforts.
Authorities have confirmed nine passengers have been killed and 55 injured. The number of people still unaccounted for is raising concerns that the death toll could dramatically rise to nearly 290, making it one of the worst maritime accidents in South Korea after the 1993 ferry disaster when 292 people died.
The dead include a female teacher, a female member of the crew and three male school students.
Dozens of private ships joined in the search efforts Thursday, with desperate parents hiring out boats in an effort to find their loved ones.
"If I could teach myself to dive, I would jump in the water and try to find my daughter," one parent told the Reuters news agency.