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278 still missing in ferry accident

JINDO, South Korea -- Rescuers worked frantically Thursday to find around 300 people — mostly schoolchildren — missing after a South Korean ferry capsized, with prospects of pulling survivors from the submerged vessel dimming as emotions boiled over among anguished relatives.

Worsening weather fueled the somber mood, with persistent rain and choppy seas further hindering dive teams already struggling with low visibility and strong currents.

Fourteen people were confirmed dead, but with every hour that passed fears mounted for the 278 still unaccounted for after the multi-deck vessel with 475 on board suddenly listed, capsized and then sank within the space of 90 minutes on Wednesday morning.

“Honestly, I think the chances of finding anyone alive are close to zero,” a coastguard official told an AFP journalist on one of the boats at the site.

The coastguard said more than 500 divers, 169 vessels and 29 aircraft were now involved in the rescue operation.

A total of 375 high school students were on board, traveling with their teachers to the popular island resort of Jeju.

When South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-Won visited the gymnasium in Jindo earlier in the day, he was jostled and shouted at and water bottles were thrown.

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An official on a Coast Guard ship points to a radar display showing the location of a sunken ferry in the water off the southern coast near Jindo on Thursday. (AP)

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