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South Korea Ferry Disaster Sends Shock Waves All The Way To North Texas

The ferry that sank off the Korean peninsula is sending shock waves all the way to North Texas.

Minjung Kim got word of the ship sinking overnight, and immediately went to work, getting the latest details for her broadcast on Dallas Korean Radio, AM 730.

“Especially the fact that most of the passengers were young high school kids makes this tragedy even more painful,” Kim told KERA. “The whole nation of Korea is in shock.”

Dozens of boats, helicopters and divers scrambled Wednesday to rescue more than 470 people after a ferry sank off South Korea's southern coast, NPR reported.

In South Korea, Kim says, it’s tradition for high school students to take an annual trip together to visit historical sites.

“More than 300 students and more than a dozen teachers from Ansan Danwon high school were on board,” Kim said.

The school is located close to Seoul, the capital. 

She says Korean news agencies reported that some of the students texted terrifying messages to their parents.

“They texted 'Mommy and daddy, I’m so afraid,'” Kim said. “'I love you mommy and daddy. I think the ferry is sinking right now; I’m so afraid.'”

The U.S. Navy is helping South Korea search for more survivors, but the cold temperatures and strong currents are a challenge for rescuers. Kim says this trip was supposed to be special for all those teenagers.

“It’s their school trip,” Kim said. “They can make their good memories, but they lost everything.”

Parents, relatives and school officials are now in Jindo, the port closest to where the ferry sank. Local news footage shows Koreans wrapped in blankets, sitting by the pier, eager for news of their loved ones.

There's no word yet on what caused the vessel to sink. 

Read more about the ship disaster from NPR.

Doualy Xaykaothao is a newscaster and reporter for NPR, based in Culver City. She returned to NPR for this role in 2018, and is responsible for writing, producing, and delivering national newscasts. She also reports on breaking news stories for NPR.