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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Video shows students as ferry sinks

Published 01/05/2014 | 14:27

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An image taken from the mobile phone of South Korean high school student Park Su-hyeon (AP)
Workers weep during a May Day rally to pay tribute to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol in Seoul, South Korea (AP)

A video made by a young victim of the South Korea ferry disaster shows teenagers line up for selfies amid nervous laughter as the ferry begins to tilt and later leave final messages as they fear for their lives.

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The mobile phone footage also shows the high school students huddled below deck wondered if they would make the news and discussed posting about the drama on Facebook.

But later one leaves "farewell words" and another sends a message of love to their mother.

The shaky video was on the phone of 17-year-old Park Su-hyeon when rescuers recovered his body.

The boy's father, Park Jong-dae, has released it to the Associated Press and select South Korean media, saying he wanted to show the world the ship's condition as it sank.

It shows the fear in the cabin build as the listing becomes worse. Some say they feel dizzy, that their legs are shaking. One student can be seen walking with his hands braced against the wall for balance.

"Am I really going to die?" a student in the video asks at 8.53am on April 16, less than two minutes into it and the same time a crew member on the bridge made the first distress call.

Students are heard asking whether the ship will sink and where their teachers are. Someone says: "What's the captain doing?"

Several times they are warned over the loudspeaker to stay where they are, even as the tilting increases and it becomes less possible for them to flee.

The tragedy, which has left more than 300 people dead or missing, has created a sense of national mourning, anger and shame. Nearly 220 bodies, mostly from inside the submerged vessel, have so far been recovered.

More than 80% of the victims were students from one high school in Ansan, south of Seoul, on their way to the southern tourist island of Jeju for a school trip.

The group of teens in the video alternate between bluster, attempts at humor and unmistakable fear.

Only one can be seen wearing a life jacket at the beginning of the video clips, which start at 8.52am and end - with a small break between them - at 9.09am, when everyone appears to be wearing them.

Some of the students in the video struggle as they try to buckle their life jackets. As the ferry lists, they joke about "final commemorative pictures" and "defying gravity" by trying to walk on the walls.

"It's like we're becoming the Titanic," one student says.

Some of the teens in the video later use it to offer their last words. Some warn their siblings not to take school trips unless they want to end up like them.

"I'm really scared," one says. Another asks: "Is it really sinking? Wow, they're giving us life vests."

"I'm getting out of here," one says. "Me too, me too," says another.

A student says: "We have to survive now."

"We're all finished. I have to leave some farewell words before I die," says another. "Mom, I love you," says one.

At the beginning of the video, a message blasts from the ship's loudspeakers: "Don't move away from your places and brace for any possible accidents."

In subsequent announcements, passengers are again told to stay put, even as some students question whether they should flee. The last message from the bridge comes at 9.08am: "We're again announcing: For passengers who can wear life vests, please wear them now. Never move away from your places."

That warning came eight minutes after a Sewol crew member told a marine traffic official that "the body of the ship has tilted and it's impossible to move", according to a transcript.

After the bridge ordered passengers to stay in their cabins, Captain Lee Joon-seok took at least half an hour to order an evacuation. It is unclear whether that order was ever relayed to passengers.

Mr Lee has said he delayed evacuation because of worries about sending passengers into cold waters and fast currents before rescuers arrived.

He can be seen in a separate video released by the coast guard leaping from the ferry in his underwear onto a rescue boat while many passengers were still in the sinking ship.

The captain and 14 others responsible for the ferry's navigation have been detained on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Prosecutors are investigating whether stability issues related to too much cargo or a redesign that added more cabins to the ship contributed to the sinking.

Press Association

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