Ferry carrying 459 sinks off coast of S. Korea; Four confirmed dead

BY newsdesk  April 16, 2014 at 9:45 AM EST
Relatives of missing people wait at a Jindo port in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The  ferry identified as the Sewol was carrying 459 passengers, including the students and teachers traveling to Jeju island. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Relatives of missing people wait at a Jindo port in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry identified as the Sewol was carrying 459 passengers, including the students and teachers traveling to Jeju island. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

A ferry carrying 459 people sank off of South Korea’s southern coast Wednesday. At least four people are confirmed dead with 55 injured. Nearly 300 people are still missing. Most of the passengers on the boat were high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island.

The ferry sent a distress call at about 9 a.m. Wednesday. Dozens of rescue vessels and aircraft swarmed the ferry, with rescuers climbing over its sides, pulling out passengers wearing orange life jackets, The Associated Press reported. But the ship overturned completely and continued to sink and within a few hours only its bow stuck out of the water. And then that, too, disappeared.

The death toll is expected to rise dramatically as the waters in the area are around 54 degrees Fahrenheit, cold enough to cause signs of hypothermia after about 1 1/2 hours of exposure.