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Evacuation came too late for many on sinking ferry

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) - A crew member on the ferry that sank of South Korea's southern coast yesterday says an immediate evacuation order wasn't issued because officers on the bridge were still trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list, amid confusion and chaos.

According to the crew member, the first instructions from the captain were for passengers to put on life jackets and stay put. And he says it wasn't until about 30 minutes later that the captain ordered an evacuation.

The crew member says he's not sure whether the order, given to crew members, was actually relayed to passengers on the public address system.

Eighteen people, including a female crew member, are confirmed dead, but the number is expected to go much higher. There are fears that nearly 280 missing passengers, including many high school students, are dead. Coast Guard officials put the number of survivors at 179, from among the 475 people on board.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard says it's investigating whether the ferry's captain was one of the first people to leave the sinking ship.

A man who was identified by news agencies as the captain has appeared briefly on TV, his face hidden beneath a gray hoodie. He said, "I am really sorry and deeply ashamed."