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Asia

Passenger ferry sinks off South Korean coast with hundreds on board

A passenger ferry, carrying more than 470 people, has sunk off the coast of South Korea. Rescue operations remain ongoing with hundreds of passengers still unaccounted for.

South Korea's government said 295 people are still missing Wednesday several hours after a ferry carrying 477 passengers sank off the country's southern coast.

Officials say at least two people have been confirmed dead.

Earlier reports said that more than 100 people were unaccounted for, but officials later changed the number to 295.

The ferry, identified as the Sewol, was bound for the island of Jeju, located some 100 kilometers (62 miles) off the Korean Peninsula's southern coast. The passengers included 325 high school students on a field trip.

A total of 18 helicopters and 34 rescue boats have been deployed in the rescue operation, according to Lee Gyeong-Og, the vice minister of security and public administration. South Korean President Park Guen-Hye has ordered all availble assets to mobilize and aid the rescue effort.

Passengers were asked to put on life vests and jump ship, according to the Yonhap news agency.

The reason for the ship capsizing remains unclear. Overnight, heavy fog was reported in the area, resulting in the cancellation of many ferry services to the island. But some news reports have said that visibility in the area is clear.

slk,hc/dr (AFP, dpa, reuters)