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South Korea Ferry Disaster

False Hope: Ferry Relative Told Missing Aunt Was ‘All Right’

JINDO, South Korea - A relative of a missing woman on the doomed South Korean ferry was assured by officials that she was safe even as the disaster was unfolding.

"When the boat capsized I called the government five times, they said 'Your aunt is all right'," Young Kyung Choi told NBC News at a gym where families of those on board were gathering.

But Choi's aunt had not been rescued, and on Friday was still listed among the 268 passengers feared trapped inside the submerged vessel.

The ferry capsized on its way from the port of Incheon to the holiday island of Jeju on Wednesday.

Image: Young Kyung Choi
Young Kyung Choi's aunt was among 475 passengers and crew on a ferry that capsized on its way from the port of Incheon to the holiday island of Jeju on Wednesday. NBC News

Choi, who took a late-night bus to reach the port city of Jindo, said he was "pessimistic" that rescuers would find survivors, despite reports that some of the passengers were still alive on board in air pockets.

Nearby, a distraught woman shouted: "Where is the government? We haven't seen the government. Where are the divers? We haven't seen the divers.”

Relatives of Korea ferry passengers face an agonizing wait 0:39

A volunteer diver helping search for survivors said he would persevere despite difficult conditions at sea.

"We have to sacrifice ourselves to save the people," Brandon Jo told NBC News.

- Arata Yamamoto and F. Brinley Bruton