South Korea ferry: Fear and hope as relatives wait

Footage shows the search continuing in the dark, as Martin Patience reports

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South Korean TV networks are constantly replaying dramatic footage of the efforts to rescue passengers from the stricken ship.

The footage shows an armada of small boats motoring right up beside the ferry, which listed heavily on its side before sinking.

Rescuers are seen desperately grabbing teenagers out of the water before they are swept away by the currents and undertow.

Other footage shows helicopters throwing orange life rafts to passengers bobbing on the sea. Some of the passengers are then winched to safety.

What makes this accident even more distressing is the fact that many of those on board were high school students on a trip to a holiday island.

A family member of a missing passenger cries as she waits for a rescue team's arrival at a port where family members of missing passengers are gathered in Jindo, South Korea, 16 April 2014 Many relatives waited late into the night for news of the passengers

With so many missing, it could turn out to be South Korea's worst civilian disaster in more than 20 years.

Many of the parents of the students on board have driven to the south-west of the country to be closer to the scene of the accident and the ongoing rescue operations.

In a text message shown on South Korea's main news channel - YTN - one student texted his father: "Dad, I can't walk out because the ship is tilted too much, and I don't see anyone in the corridor."

Relatives and friends of those on board are also posting on social media sites asking for any news or information about loved ones.

On Facebook, many South Koreans are reposting a yellow ribbon to symbolise the hope that the missing may still be found alive.

"Please, please survive and come back," the message reads. "We love you guys."

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