The 20 people confirmed dead Thursday include at least five students and two teachers, and there’s fear that number will go much higher because so many of the passengers were from the school. More than a dozen teachers were on board.
“My baby is trapped in cold waters now. How can I sleep comfortably?” said a 63-year-old grandmother of a missing student who gave only her surname, Kim, tears welling in her eyes as she explained why she stayed overnight at the school’s auditorium waiting for news about the search. “I cannot live without him.”
There were huge swings in emotions Thursday at the school’s auditorium, where hundreds of family members, students, residents and aid workers gathered, desperate for news. Volunteers, wearing green or yellow vests, cleaned the school and provided coffee, fruit, rice, kimchi and instant noodles.
In the morning, people sat and stared vacantly at a giant TV screen broadcasting news of the sinking. Some women wiped away tears. One middle-aged woman wept as she talked on her phone. Tired-looking students sat on chairs, repeatedly checking their phones.
Later in the day, fury erupted over the pace of the rescue operation.
Angry parents and students cursed and shoved reporters, photographers and TV cameramen, while about 10 female students wailed loudly and hugged each other. An unidentified middle-aged man shouted, “Let’s smash their cameras the next time we see another flash.”
The school, nestled in a quiet, clean residential area, was founded in 2005 and has more than 1,200 students and 85 teachers. The area is a half hour’s drive from an industrial complex where many parents of students work at factories, according to residents. Ansan has a population of about 770,000, about 40,000 of whom are foreign workers from China, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries, according to city officials.