The U.S. Navy is sending the amphibious warship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) to support the efforts of Republic of Korea (RoK) following the sinking of the passenger ship Sewol, U.S. Navy officials told USNI News on Wednesday.
The passenger ship was carrying 462 people when it sank in route to the tourist island of Jeju — just to the south of the Korean peninsula. Four are confirmed dead and more than 280 passengers are still missing, according to a report from the Associated Press.
The ship went down a few miles from Byeongpung Island and rescuers responded almost immediately. More than 80 ships and almost 20 aircraft were part of the response, according to several press reports.
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“Three hours from its destination, the ferry sent a distress call at about 9 a.m. Wednesday after it began listing to one side, according to the Ministry of Security and Public Administration. Officials didn’t know what caused it to sink and said the focus was still on rescuing survivors,” read the AP report.
It’s unclear how much assistance Bonhomme Richard will be able to provide to the rescue effort.
“When we were alerted to the accident, we immediately diverted to the scene to render assistance,” Capt. Heidi C. Agle, commodore of U.S. Amphibious Squadron 11 said in a Wednesday statement from the service.
“However, the efficiency of the Korean response eclipsed the immediate need for our assets. We are standing by to provide support as requested by the on-scene commander.”
Bonhomme Richard is embarked with a compliment of Marine MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor, Navy MH-60 helicopters and a variety of small boats.