Text messages from passengers of the Korean ferry sent immediately after it capsized tell tales of love, fear and quiet courage for those being engulfed in catastrophe.
Almost 500 people, hundreds of them high school students, were aboard the ferry Sewol that sank Wednesday off the southern tip of South Korea enroute to the popular tourist island of Jeju. Twenty people, including five students and two teachers, are confirmed dead. More than 300 remained missing Thursday.
As the tragedy grew dire, some aboard the vessel sent farewell messages to friends and loved ones. South Korean news outlets released some of the conversations, and some have been translated to English.
ABC News, citing Korean TV, reported this one:
"Dad, don't worry. I've got a life vest on and we're huddled together," a student identified as Shin, 18, texted her father.
Dad's reply: "I know the rescue is underway but make your way out if you can."
"Dad, I can't walk out," she replied. "The corridor is full of kids, and it's too tilted."
Shin was among the 287 still reported missing.
One family said they had received the text "I am alive" from someone who had been listed as missing, the Korean news agency NEWSIS reported. It was not clear if that person had been rescued.
CBCNews.ca's Duk Han Lee translated a text message exchange between a passenger named Woong Gi and his brother, the network said.
"Keep calm, don't panic, take your time, stay sharp, and do as they say," the passenger's brother writes.
"When data works contact me again, your brother," he adds in another message six minutes later.
Woong Gi was listed among the missing.
One student messaged 30 members of a theater club in this text exchange obtained by South Korea's Yonhap News agency, CBS said. Several other people in the conversation replied, some apparently confused by the messages about the ferry capsizing.
"If I've wronged any of you, forgive me," one student writes. "Love you guys."
The fate of the student was not known.
Some parents were able to stay in touch with their kids on the phone until cell contact was lost. Park Yu-Shin, whose daughter is among the missing, told the AFP news agency that her daughter saw a helicopter.
"She was telling me: 'We're putting on our life vests. They're telling us to wait and stay put, so we're waiting...I can see a helicopter," Park said.
But for some, there were happy endings. A student aboard the ferry sent this missive:
"Mom, I'm sending you this now because I'm afraid I might not be able to say it later. I love you."
His mother replies seven minutes later. "Why..? I was wondering why you weren't checking the messenger..."
The student reportedly was rescued and has since been reunited with his family.