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South Korea sinking ferry: Rescue underway

South Korea sinking ferry: U.S. Navy responds

Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 7:34 PM -

A U.S. Navy ship has dispatched helicopters to help in the search for nearly 300 people missing after their ferry sank near South Korea.

The crew was conducting routine patrol in the area when the ferry went down in the Yellow Sea.

Most of those on board the ferry were students and teachers from a South Korean high school on a four-day trip to a resort island.

So far, four people have been confirmed dead and 164 people have been rescued.

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Officials don't know what caused the ferry to sink. The weather at the time of the incident was clear.

The rescue operation was still underway Wednesday evening, hours after the ferry first sent out a distress signal.

Officials say the operation to rescue pasengers becomes more critical with each passing moment.  

Chilling water temperatures, swift currents and low visibility complicate efforts to locate victims and survivors.

Rescued passengers reported hearing a loud bump. Some say they ignored ship announcements warning them to stay in place, instead grabbing life jackets and heading to the deck.  

The ferry sank within two hours of the first distress call.

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Cell phone video that appears to be shot from inside the sinking ship has emerged, showing passengers waiting for help.

It is possible that there are air pockets inside some of the compartments, but the temperature could lead to hypothermia quickly.

On the mainland, frantic family members search a posted list of those that have already been rescued.  

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