So-Hyun Kim, a teacher accompanying the more than 300 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, said she initially stayed in her cabin because of the announcements, but had to attempt an escape when water came rushing in.
"I couldn't go anywhere. I didn't have the strength to climb further up," she told SBS News. "There was an open emergency exit, so another teacher and I decided to just fall and swim our way toward it. I fell and hit a railing, and that's when I was rescued."
Of the 475 passengers on board the ferry, 179 were rescued. Another 287 were listed as missing and 9 died.
Rescuers were seen boarding the vessel, which had tipped to its side, and combing through the top of the ship for survivors. One man boarded the boat and quickly found what appeared to be a crew member still on it.
Bodies could be seen scattered through the water in another video shot from a helicopter. A yellow raft was tossed out of the chopper and survivors in the water swam toward it before they were pulled to safety.
Others were winched in slings to the safety of hovering helicopters.
As darkness fell, the ferry took on more water and only the rudder of the vessel remained visible before the ship sank about 100 feet below the water. Rescuers stopped searching for those still reported missing at about 7 p.m. due to strong currents and poor visibility, but they resumed their mission around 12:30 a.m. local time, taking advantage of a lull in the strong currents.
One rescued passenger said he believed that many people had been trapped inside the ferry when it sank.
The ferry, identified as the Sewol, was sailing to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call as it began leaning to one side. The passengers include more than 300 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, near Seoul, who were on a school trip.