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South Korea ferry disaster: Onboard announcement may have worsened disaster

Published on Apr 17, 2014 11:49 AM

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - An onboard announcement telling passengers to stay inside the South Korea ferry Sewol as it sank off the coast of Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, appears to have reduced passengers' chances of survival.

Video clips taken by the survivors show that onboard announcement repeatedly told passengers to stay inside, despite the vessel continuing to tilt.

South Korea ferry sinking map

"Go inside and wait, as the cabin is safer," a ferry staff is heard saying in a video clip taken by a passenger.

A woman prays for missing students who were on South Korea ferry "Sewol" which sank in the sea off Jindo, at a classroom of Danwon High School in Ansan on April 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

However, the clip also shows that the ship had already tilted sufficiently to prevent people from standing properly.

The clip also contains a shot of a passenger saying that students were still inside.

Survivors have also given similar accounts.

"While a lot of people were in the corridors, announcements to go back into the cabins continued to be made," a survivor identified by the surname Jung told the local media.

"If the announcement to leave the cabins was made earlier, more people would have been able to reach safety."

As the ship continued to tilt rapidly, the ship's crew instructed the passengers to abandon ship. According to those rescued from the ferry, power was cut off as people were evacuating the cabins, hampering their progress.

Survivors have also told the authorities that a large number of people remained inside as they left the sinking ferry.

Nearly 300 people, many of them high school students, are missing and feared dead after the ferry sank just a few hours from its destination, sparking a massive search and leaving the country in shock.

The Sewol, carrying 459 passengers, left Incheon port on Tuesday night for the resort island of Jeju, a journey that takes 12 to 14 hours.