South Korea ferry: Young survivors give evidence

Young survivors of the South Korean ferry disaster have begun giving testimony at the trial of the 15 crew members charged with abandoning the sinking ship.

The Sewol ferry sank in April, killing 304 people, including around 250 students. Credit: Reuters

The children, whose identities have been protected, said they were repeatedly told to stay in their cabins when the ship began to take on water.

"We were waiting and, when the water started coming in, the class rep told everyone to put on the life vests ... the door was above our heads, so she said we'll float and go through the door and that's how we came out," one of the teenagers said.

Others told the hearings that coastguard officials waited outside the stricken ferry for passengers to swim out rather than go into the ship to try and rescue them.

"We said to ourselves, 'why aren't they coming in?'" one said.

The crew members on trial, including the captain, have said they thought it was the coast guard's job to evacuate passengers. Video footage of their escape triggered outrage across South Korea.