SEOUL — Police said today that 44 bodies were recovered and more than 100 others were presumed dead in Sunday's capsizing of a ferry off South Korea's west coast.
Reports of survivors varied from 67 to 94, as did the reported number of people on the ferry.
"The ship sank in less than 30 seconds," said Lee Sang Mun, who broke a window to escape his second-floor cabin. "There were many women and young people in my cabin, and few came out."
Television reports quoted survivors as saying most of the passengers were inside the cabins because of the bad weather and were trapped when the ferry capsized.
Most of the survivors had been on the upper decks and jumped or were thrown into the water before the ship went down, survivors said.
The West Sea Ferry sank off the coast of northern Chollabukdo province, about 140 miles southwest of Seoul. It was carrying passengers bound for a day of fishing and hiking on islands in the Yellow Sea.
There were conflicting reports on the number of people aboard the ferry because no passenger list was available, police said. State television quoted witnesses as saying there were 200 to 250 people on the boat, which had a capacity of 207.
Police said rescue operations were hampered by seas running 10 to 13 feet high.