Marco Werman: Bad weather today hampered the search for survivors of that sunken South Korean ferry. Some 280 passengers are still unaccounted for and feared drowned, most of them high school students. Earlier I spoke with South Korean reporter June Chang, who's in the city where the students came from.
June Chang: Right now I am in Ansan. This is where students aboard the ferry, they are students are Danwon High School. There are students ranging from 9th grade to 12th grade, all praying for their fellow students. Right now, there is a candlelight vigil going on. All the students have pieces of paper with messages scribbled on them, saying "Stay strong," "Come back home safely," "Aren't you hungry? Come back so we can have a meal together." The Korean Red Cross has been super supportive. They've been providing food, blankets, even providing counseling for those who need it.
Werman: Let's go to what's happening right now with the rescue operation. What is the theory about why this ferry sank in the first place? I gather the captain has actually been questioned by police now.
Chang: The ship is now stuck 32 meters below the water surface, 12 miles off of the coast of South Korea, so they were well on their way. The journey from Incheon to Jeju is about 13 and a half hours. Unfortunately, there was a dense fog which caused a two hour delay for the trip. Unfortunately, because there was a delay, people are speculating that the captain decided to take a shortcut for the journey, so this is possibly why the ship might have hit an underwater rock or a reef, which could explain why people felt an impact, a jolt and they could hear a loud bang. At that moment, people were saying that "Oh, what should we do?" Some people were just trying to follow orders because the broadcast was mentioning numerous times to stay put. The crew themselves, according to one of the local stations here, the captain told the crew to evacuate, so they just followed the captain's orders without saving anyone. Apparently that's their excuse. As to whether it's true or not, I'm not sure, but that's what's been going around. For instance, the lifeboats for this ferry, they were not released, they didn't deploy any of them, which is why there's a swirl of controversy going around at the moment.
Werman: Right now with this search and rescue mission, is there some way that maybe people who are still trapped below deck have some chance to find their way out to a place that's above water?
Chang: The rescue teams have been trying to pump oxygen into the vessel for any air pockets, if there are survivors. Right now, the water overnight temperatures are going down to 11 degrees celsius, so hypothermia will be setting in for those who are still in the water and the water is quite murky, so divers are having trouble entering the ship. As for any survivors, we're still hoping that there are survivors.
Werman: Apparently South Korean President Park met with families of those missing. What was the mood at that meeting?
Chang: President Park went to Jindo. That's where the parents are waiting. A lot of the family members are in Jindo, which is closest to the site. She has been trying to console them. It's unfortunate that the students were about to embark on a 4 day trip to Jeju Island. It was something that they were looking forward to. Right now, everyone is in shock and disbelief. We're all on the edge of our seats trying to find any news of any survivors.
Werman: Reporter June Chang speaking to me from Ansan, South Korea. One of the more haunting parts of this ferry disaster is the dramatic burst of communication between passengers on the boat and their loved ones on shore. A student texted his mother in Korean "Mom, this might be the last chance to tell you I love you." His mother texted back "Why's that?" and then "I love you anyway." That young man was one of the lucky who was rescued. Then there's this text sent by another student to her father, as the ferry was listing further and further into the water. We voiced a translation of the exchange.
"Dad, don't worry. I'm wearing a life vest and I'm with other girls. We're inside the ship, still in the hallway."
"I know that the rescue is underway, but shouldn't you be waiting outside the rail? Try to get out if you can."
"The ship is too tilted. The hallway is crowded with so many people."
Werman: The young woman who texted that has yet to be located.