On Wednesday morning a ferry bound for Jeju Island, set sail from Incheon carrying over 450 passengers (of which about 320 were students traveling with their teachers on a school trip). Just three hours from it's destination, the ferry began to list and start sinking. From there things seem to get a little hazy, with some reports stating the captain (who was a fill in for the actual captain away on leave) first told passengers to stay where they were, grab a life jacket and sit tight, and then issued the evacuation call, which it seems may or may not have been heard over the intercom system.
Farmboy and I have been on ferries just like the one that is sinking, and they are a nightmare. Everyone pushing and shoving under normal circumstances when entering and leaving the boat, never mind when there is the threat of a sinking ship. The stairways are narrow, metal and therefore very slippery when wet. It must have been terrifying. Coupled with the fact that I'm sure many passengers are not strong swimmers, and the water is 12C or 55F.
I recently read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers which offers some ideas and plausible reasonings behind previous Korean airline crashes, stating that the Korean culture of respecting ones elders and superiors is so deeply ingrained that obeying orders often overrides common sense. Could this be a reason for the delay in evacuation? It's something to think about.
Passenger Koo Bon-hee, 36, told the AP that many people were trapped inside by windows that were too hard to break. He wanted to escape earlier but an announcement said passengers should stay put.
"The rescue wasn't done well. We were wearing life jackets. We had time," Koo, who was on a business trip to Jeju with a co-worker, said from a hospital bed in Mokpo where he was treated for minor injuries. "If people had jumped into the water ... they could have been rescued. But we were told not to go out." (Fox News)
As of publishing this post 179 people have been rescued, 28 have died, and 268 are still missing. My students are devastated by the news, and it's hard to try and teach them English when their minds are occupied. If you are interested in keeping up to date with the news, click here for live video coverage (it's all in Korean but you do get a good idea of what's happening).