South Korea - Ferry carrying hundreds of passengers, including students, sinks off south coast / Vice principal of school, where many students are missing after ferry sinking, commits suicide / Coastguard says death toll in ship disaster has risen to 29; divers continue their search / Prosecutors indict 15 crew members over ferry disaster, 4 on murder charges
On April 16th 2014 a South Korean passenger ship carrying more than 470 people, including many high school students, sank off the country's southern coast after sending a distress call, officials said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The ferry with 476 people including 325 high school students was sailing to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call as it began leaning to one side, according to Ministry of Security and Public Administration.
A total of 18 helicopters and 34 rescue boats have been sent to the area and 110 people have been rescued so far, ministry officials said.
Government officials say they have no further details.
Calls to South Korea's coast guard headquarters weren't immediately answered.
More tragedy struck in Jindo, South Korea, on April 18th, when a high school vice principal who had been rescued from the ferry that sank on April 16th was found hanged from a pine tree.
Kang Min-kyu hanged himself near a shelter where rescued passengers and their families have been housed temporarily.
Senior police officer Lee Sung-hoon said that Kang had used his own belt to hang himself.
Kang was the lead guide for a school trip taking 325 students to the South Korean island of Jeju.
In a suicide note, he said he wanted to take responsibility for what happened because he had led the trip, according to police.
He asked that his body be cremated and the ashes scattered at the accident site.
Besides the vice principal, at least 28 people are now confirmed dead from the ferry, The Sewol, which sank on April 16th.
Officials said there were 179 survivors and about 270 people remained missing, many of them high school students.
On April 19th divers from the South Korean Coast Guard and Navy Ship Salvage Unit (SSU) continued to search for survivors from the ship that sank off the country's southern coast on April 16th.
Several boats circled around two large grey buoys marking the site where the Sewol ship capsized, as divers jumped into murky waters of the East China Sea.
Meanwhile, in Jindo, a coast guard official confirmed that the death toll from the ferry disaster rose to 29.
He also said that another three bodies were spotted by a civilian diver through a window of a room located on the fourth floor of the sunken ship.
But due to floating obstacles, the diver could not retrieve the bodies.
Strong currents and rain have made it difficult to get inside the ferry, where most of the passengers are believed to have been trapped.
Rescuers planned 40 dives on April 19th in an attempt to enter the ferry and retrieve at least some of the more than 270 people missing.
"176 ships and 28 planes will be mobilised to search the area around the sunken ship. 652 civilian, government and military divers will try to search the interior of the ship over 40 attempts," said Ko Myung-seok, director general of Equipment & Technology at Korea Coast Guard.
The Sewol had left the northwestern port of Incheon on Tuesday on an overnight journey to the holiday island of Jeju in the south with 476 people aboard, including 323 students from Danwon High School in Ansan.
It capsized within hours of the crew making a distress call to the shore on Wednesday morning.
With only 174 known survivors and the chances of survival becoming slimmer by the hour, it was shaping up to be one of South Korea's worst disasters.
On May 15th 15 crew members of the sunken South Korean ferry were indicted for their part in the disaster which left over 300 dead in April
Four of the crew - including the captain - were charged with homicide, for failing to carry out their duties to protect passengers in need, which led to their deaths.
In Seoul, South Koreans continued to visit a memorial altar to pay tributes to the dead, many of whom were students from a single high school near Seoul.
30 days have passed since the Sewol ferry sunk off the southwestern coast of South Korea, and despite exhaustive recovery efforts 21 passengers remain missing.
News of the charges against the crew members was welcomed by those writing tributes on yellow ribbons and laying flowers at the memorial.
People The Associated Press spoke to on May 15th said it was right they should be charged with murder.
The actions of the crew and particularly Captain Lee Joon-seok has shocked a nation in mourning.
Lee initially told passengers to stay in their cabins and took half an hour to issue an evacuation order - though it's not known if his message was ever conveyed to passengers.
In a video taken by the coast guard, he was seen escaping the ferry in his underwear to a rescue boat while many passengers were still in the sinking ship.
If convicted, they could face the death penalty, according to the Supreme Court.