There is national shock at the incident that may have claimed the lives of hundreds of South Korean schoolchildren was mixed with fury today, as more passengers gave eyewitness accounts of what happened on board before the vessel began to sink.
Survivors highlighted the fact that passengers were repeatedly told to stay in their seats or cabins when the ferry first ran into trouble on Wednesday morning.
Those who obeyed found their possible escape route severely compromised after the vessel suddenly listed sharply to the port side, triggering total panic.
“The ship was going underwater and there was nothing for them to hold on to with their hands. We couldn’t crawl up the floor, because it was wet and at such a sharp angle,” — Kim Sung Mook, survivor
Using a fire hose he managed to pull a few to safety, “but there were so many of them … I couldn’t help them all.” One student who was rescued said most passengers had remained in their seat for “30 to 40 minutes” after the ferry first foundered, in line with instructions they received from crew members and over the internal tannoy system.
“The message was repeated again and again: ‘Stay put. Don’t move’,” — Huh Young-Ki, survivor
It’s been reported that when the accident occurred, the on board announcement to the passengers was to stay where they were without giving any specific directions.
The same announcement was known to have been heard repeatedly for one hour before they finally told all the passengers to jump into the sea with their life vests on, as the ferry was going to sink.
Many say the delayed warning to get off the ferry worsened the tragedy as many passengers heeded instructions and stayed in their rooms, and were later unable to escape as the vessel went down.
Sources: 1, 2, 3.