Nearly 300 missing after ferry sinks off South Korea coast

Dozens of passengers have been rescued but the fate of many others remains unknown.
South Korea\’s coast guard says three people are dead and at least 290 missing after a passenger boat sank off the country\’s southern coast Wednesday.
The ferry, carrying mainly school students, was travelling from the port of Incheon, in the north-west, to the southern resort island of Jeju.
A major rescue effort is under way, involving dozens of ships and helicopters. Those brought to safety were taken to a nearby island.
Three people are now said to have died and at least 13 others have been hurt.
South Korean officials had earlier said that 368 people had been plucked to safety, but later said there had been a counting error.
They have now revised down the number rescued to 164. Officials also revised down the number of people on the ferry from 476.
Images showed the ferry listing at a severe angle and then later almost completely submerged, with only a small part of its hull visible. It sank within two hours of sending a distress signal, reports said.
South Korean television showed the boat leaning heavily, and then slowly sinking almost completely under the water early Wednesday.
South Korean Vice Minister of Security and Public Information Lee Gyeong-og says President Park Geun-hye has made the rescue a top priority.
A major rescue operation is under way, involving 34 naval, coastguard and civilian ships, and 18 helicopters.
A team of South Korean navy SEALS are also participating in the rescue.
The reason for the crash is not clear. Some passengers reported hearing a loud noise before the ferry started sinking. 
Most of the passengers were high school students headed to the popular resort island of Jeju on a school outing. 
The students attend a school in Ansan, near Seoul. Classes were dismissed Wednesday as anxious parents gathered, waiting for news about their children. 
The ferry departed late Tuesday from the western port of Incheon. It sank about 20 kilometers off the island of Byungpoong. 
Heavy fog was reported in the area on Tuesday evening, but it is not known whether this contributed to the sinking.
Source: Agencies
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