With each passing minute, the possibility of survival diminishes.
But the families of nearly 300 passengers still missing from a sunken ferry boat have nothing to cling on to but hope.
It’s been more than 24 hours since the ferry, which carried 475 people, sank off the southwestern coast of South Korea.
Nine people are dead. At least 179 have been rescued. But no one knows whether the 287 still missing are alive, perhaps on the ship, or if they succumbed to the frigid water about 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit.)
“I am sorry,” Lee Joon Suk, the captain of the ship, told reporters Thursday as they peppered him with questions about what happened.
“I am at a loss for words,” he said, as he sat at a Coast Guard station, facing possible charges of negligence.
At the Peng Mok Harbor in Jindu, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the site of the accident, family members spend the hours staring at the water.
They have camped out here since Wednesday. Mothers and grandmothers huddled together, crying and comforting each other.
Chang Min, whose son is a second grader, said he was furious that search officials were using the word “investigation” and not the word “rescue.”
“If the government cares for the people, our family, our children, please rescue our families and our children,” he said.