Beijing: A child was the first person to make an emergency call from the Sewol, the South Korean ferry that capsized last week.
The boy with the surname Choi, one of the 329 schoolchildren on board, made the call to the emergency 119 number with a trembling voice a few minutes after the ferry made its last turn which preceded the boat capsizing, according to South Korea's fire service.
"Save us! We're on a ship and I think it's sinking," said the boy, who is missing, according to Yonhap, a South Korean news agency. The fireman who took the call asked him to put the captain on the line and the boy replied: "Do you mean my teacher?" The pronunciation of "captain" and "teacher" is similar in Korean.
The call was one of around 20 made to emergency services by the teenagers on the boat as they put on life jackets and waited for an order to leave the ship.
The delay in giving the order may have cost the lives of as many as 250 of the pupils on board, as transcripts between the ship and shore showed the crew dithering over what to do. One transcript showed that a ship named Doola Ace was two miles from the Sewol 11 minutes after the bridge made its distress call. The Doola Ace was told to assist in a rescue, but 12 minutes later it reported that the ferry was not evacuating its passengers.
"We cannot move alongside if people don't evacuate," it said. Five minutes later, it reported it was "right in front" of the Sewol, still waiting. After the shore told the ship again to get its passengers out on deck, the bridge of the Sewol responded that its captain had to make a final decision.
Prosecutors are seeking arrest warrants for four more members of crew after charging its captain, its third mate and coxswain with dereliction of duty.
As divers continued to pull bodies out of the submerged hull, the confirmed death toll from the disaster rose above 100. Two hundred of the 476 people who were aboard the ferry are still missing.