Urgent Search for Survivors After a Ferry Sinks Off South Korea

Desperate text messages from trapped passengers, amazing rescues and survival tips.
4:27 | 04/16/14

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Transcript for Urgent Search for Survivors After a Ferry Sinks Off South Korea
We start with the urgent race to save hundreds of people sinking into the ocean. It began as a slow motion tragedy. A giant ferry boat taking on water in South Korea. Tonight we're watching the amazing rescues and Reading desperate text messages from the students to their families on dry land. ABC has the latest in this drama for us tonight. Reporter: A desperate rescue mission -- first responders struggling to reach the massive ferry on its side and sinking fast. Plucking passengers, many of them teenagers off the deck, now vertical, clutching railings to keep their footing. Piling into rescue boats. "It was very intense," this man says. "The ship was more than 45 degrees." Tilted. Helicopters dropping first responders onto the sinking boat, this woman clinging into a balcony railing, grabbing hold of a rescuer's hand. Lifting people to safety one by one from the deck. And from frigid 50 degree water, watch as this life raft is thrown to survivors floating 12 miles from land, in the middle of the sea. The ferry was sailing to a southern resort island, most of the passengers, high school students on a class trip. -- Survivors say they heard a thud, and the boat began to turn on its side. On the upper decks? The cabins where most of the 500 passengers were staying. But one floor below, the crowded cafeteria and game rooms, where many are thought to have been trapped. And tonight -- the questions about whether those passengers were told to wait for help rather than trying to get out. "The announcement told us that we should stay still," this boy said. "But the ship was already sinking." It took just two hours for the boat to go from this, to this, sinking in 90 foot seas. On shore, we found hundreds of angry, frantic families. Korean news station, mbc reporting some parents had received texts from their children. "Dad, I can't walk out," wrote one girl. "The corridor is full of kids, and it's too tilted." From another student, "Mom, I might not be able to tell you in person. I love you." The mother's response -- "Me too, son. I love you." Tonight, those parents scanning a handwritten list of the survivors, searching for their children's names. Diane, so many parents lost in their anguish, the latest Numbers are six dead, more than 200 still missing as the search gets under way on its second day. And so many people here at home watching that large boat sink were asking what could you do to survive in that situation. Could you swim away from a sinking ship? ABC's David Kerley with a survival guide. Reporter: It took just those two hours for the 20-year-old car ferry to all but disappear. Why? When you first saw these pictures, what struck you? I suspected the ship had damage on the left-hand side of the ship and that caused flooding which caused the ship to heel over. Reporter: Even a massive ship can sink fast. This flooded on purpose and went down within moments. In 1991 the oceanos cruise ship was sinking for a day. If survivors are in the water. A large quickly sinking ship can suck them into the water. Off South Korea, if it struck a rock and breached, water could start pouring in from one compartment to another. L then its stern sinking. It's the water rushing into the ship with force that makes escape nearly impossible. If they jumped, it was 25 feet from the upper deck into the waters. You wouldn't want to jump unless you knew it was going to sink or you had a place to go in the water. Some made that leap. Many others may not have. David Kerley, ABC news, Washington.

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