Passengers trapped inside a sunken South Korean ferry sent text messages to loved ones telling them they were alive but getting desperate for help as the vessel slipped below the water, ABC News reports.
“Love you all for real,” one high school student texted to 30 members of his theater club. “If I’ve wronged any of you, forgive me.”
The ferry carrying 462 passengers — many of them students — began sinking off South Korea’s southern coast on Tuesday for reasons not yet known.
South Korea confirmed that 175 passengers and crew members had been rescued, but at least six people were killed and 55 were injured, according to Reuters. More than 280 are still unaccounted for.
The ferry sank in 104 foot-deep waters, where the temperature is about 54 degrees Fahrenheit — cold enough to cause hypothermia within two hours, officials told The New York Times.
Amid growing frustration with the lack of information, some parents pooled their money to hire a boat to take them closer to the ferry, The Guardian reported.
“Since the government refused to take us to the scene 11 parents chipped in 61,000 won ($60) each to hire a boat and took a reporter and a diver. But there was no rescue operation going on,” said one father who declined to give his name.
Text messages sent from within were widely reported in South Korean media, as many shared the messages they have received.
“I am alive, there are students alive, please save us quickly,” one father told Reuters his child texted. The father believes his child is staying alive inside an air pocket in the sunken vessel.
“Can’t see a thing, it’s totally dark,” another message from a son to a mother read, according to CNN. “We are not dead yet, so please send along this message.”
Since Wednesday, helicopters and coast guard vessels from South Korea have been working on rescue operations, but they have been hindered by mud on the ocean floor that makes the search difficult, AP reported. Even worse, many passengers followed an announcement to remain where they were inside the ferry, even after a crash was heard and it began to tilt.
“Mom,” Los Angeles Times reported another student texting his mother. “This might be my last chance to tell you I love you.” She messaged back, but did not receive a response.