South Korean Ferry Missing Boy  First to Raise Alarm
A family member of a missing passenger from South Korean ferry Sewol waits for news in makeshift accommodation at a gymnasium in the port city of JindoReuters

A boy who is one of the hundreds of missing passengers from the South Korean ferry that sunk last week was the first to alert authorities about the disaster.

The boy, who gave his surname as Choi, made a frantic distress call to the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, and then to the coastguard, minutes before the Sewol, a 146-meter (480-foot) vessel, capsized off the southern coast of the Asian country.

According to a report from the Yonhap news agency, Choi said: "Save us! We're on a ship and I think it's sinking."

The coastguard said they subsequently received about 20 similar calls from children on the ferry from Incheon, in the northwest of the country, to the tourist island of Jeju.

Of the 475 people on board, 325 were students on a school trip to the island.

Choi is believed to be one of them. As the fire service official asked him to switch the phone to the captain, he replied: "Do you mean teacher?"

The words "teacher" and "captain" are pronounced in a similar way in South Korean.

Meanwhile, the official death toll in the disaster has reached 100, while nearly 200 passengers are still missing.

Divers continue to recover dozens of bodies from the sunken vessel in what is now one of South Korea's worst maritime disasters.

Although it is still unclear why the vessel capsized, seven of the crew members, including the captain, have been detained by authorities for negligence.

It has been alleged that a delay in ordering passengers to abandon the vessel caused hundreds to remain stuck inside as it went down.