2 Chi­nese na­tion­als among miss­ing

20 con­firmed dead; search on­go­ing for more than 270 pas­sen­gers

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By ZHAO SHENGNAN zhaosheng­nan@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Two Chi­nese na­tion­als were con­firmed to be among the hun­dreds of pas­sen­gers unac­counted for on Thurs­day as res­cue ef­forts con­tin­ued to hunt for sur­vivors af­ter a ferry sank off the south­west coast of South Korea on Wed­nes­day.

At least 20 dead were con­firmed dead, and more than 270 are still miss­ing.

The ferry was car­ry­ing 475 people, in­clud­ing 325 stu­dents and 15 teach­ers from Dan­won High School in An­san, a Seoul sub­urb, which, ac­cord­ing to the Chi­nese em­bassy in Seoul, has a large Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion.

China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion said the miss­ing Chi­nese cit­i­zens, a 39-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman, are a mar­ried cou­ple.

Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties were seek­ing im­me­di­ate clar­i­fi­ca­tion from South Korea con­cern­ing pas­sen­gers still unac­counted for.

The Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry asked South Korea on Thurs­day to check the in­for­ma­tion of miss­ing Chi­nese cit­i­zens and find them as soon as pos­si­ble.

A Chi­nese woman, who claimed to be a rel­a­tive of the two miss­ing Chi­nese, said in South Korea that she was cer­tain her sis­ter and brother-in­law were on board.

The miss­ing Chi­nese, from the Korean eth­nic group in Jilin prov­ince, were work­ing in South Korea, Chi­nese me­dia quoted the rel­a­tive as say­ing.

She also showed pic­tures on her cell­phone that she said were taken by the cou­ple from the ferry. She said she re­ceived the pic­tures about 90 min­utes be­fore the ac­ci­dent.

Ac­cord­ing to the fe­male rel­a­tive, the two chose the ferry be­cause they wanted to have a driv­ing hol­i­day in the south­ern re­sort is­land of Jeju, the ferry’s des­ti­na­tion.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping said in a con­do­lence mes­sage to South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Ge­un­hye on Thurs­day that he was deeply sad­dened by the ac­ci­dent that caused many deaths, most of them stu­dents.

Xi said he paid close at­ten­tion to the ac­ci­dent and said China would pro­vide sup­port where needed.

Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang called South Korean Pre­mier Chung Hong-won about the ac­ci­dent.

Separately, Xin­hua News Agency re­ported that a fe­male teenager of Chi­nese ori­gin was also among the miss­ing pas­sen­gers. Par­ents of the high school stu­dent con­firmed the news, but de­clined to re­veal whether she had South Korean ci­ti­zen­ship.

Res­cuers worked fran­ti­cally on Thurs­day to find around 300 people — mostly school­child­ren — miss­ing af­ter the South Korean ferry cap­sized, with prospects of pulling sur­vivors from the sub­merged ves­sel dim­ming as emo­tions boiled over among an­guished rel­a­tives.

Wors­en­ing weather fu­elled the somber mood, with per­sis­tent rain and choppy seas fur­ther hin­der­ing dive teams al­ready strug­gling with low vis­i­bil­ity and strong cur­rents.

“Hon­estly, I think the chances of find­ing any­one alive are close to zero,” a Coast Guard of­fi­cial told an AFP jour­nal­ist on one of the boats at the site.

The South Korean Coast Guard said more than 500 divers, 169 ves­sels and 29 air­craft were now in­volved in the res­cue oper­a­tion.

But distraught rel­a­tives who were gath­ered in a gym­na­sium on nearby Jindo is­land in­sisted more should be done.

When South Korean Prime Min­is­ter Chung Hong-won vis­ited the gym­na­sium in Jindo ear­lier in the day, he was jos­tled and shouted at, and wa­ter bot­tles were thrown. Xin­hua and AFP con­trib­uted to this story.

REUTERS / YON­HAP

Mem­bers of the South Korean navy’s Ship Sal­vage Unit search for pas­sen­gers aboard the ferry Se­wol, which sank on Wed­nes­day.

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