Hundreds missing after passenger ship sinks in China’s Yangtze River
About a dozen survivors found of the 458 people on board. One elderly passenger trapped inside the capsized vessel rescued. Five others may be alive inside the ship, say rescuers
Agencies and Li Jing and Angela Meng
Rescuers are searching for survivors after a passenger ship carrying more than 450 people sank in the Yangtze River in central China.
Officials believe that five people may be trapped inside the upturned hull of the vessel.
The Dongfangzhixing, or “Eastern Star”, was headed from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank in the Jianli section of the river in Hubei province on Monday evening, the state-run news agency Xinhua said.
The cause of the sinking was not immediately clear, but the captain of the vessel said the ship was hit by a “tornado” during a heavy storm.
Rescuers save a survivor from the overturned passenger ship in the Jianli section of the Yangtze River. Photo: Xinhua
About 13 survivors have been found. They include the captain and chief engineer.
The pair have been detained by the police for questioning, Xinhua reported.
Five bodies been recovered, state television said.
Divers have rescued one elderly passenger who was trapped inside the capsized vessel.
State TV showed footage of rescuers trying to cut through the ship’s upturned hull with an angle grinder.
Divers later rescued an 65-year-old woman who was reported to be in good health, it said.
A relative of a passenger missing on the ship cries outside a tour agency in Shanghai that organised many of the people on board’s tickets. Photo: Reuters
An official with the martime bureau said earlier that divers thought there may be some survivors inside the partially-sunken ship and rescue efforts were underway, the Hubei Daily reported.
“Rescuers knocked on the ship and received responses,” the newspaper said.
The Hubei Daily said that about 150 boats, including about 100 fishing vessels, and more than 3,000 people were involved in the rescue effort.
State television said the vessel had floated 3km down river after it capsized.
There were 458 people on board when the vessel sank at 9.28 pm, state television CCTV said, including 406 Chinese passengers, five travel agency workers and 47 crew members.
State radio reported that the ship sank within about two minutes and that no distress call had been issued.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) chairs a meeting to direct search and rescue work as he takes a plane to the site. Photo: Xinhua
Initial investigations found the ship was not overloaded and that it had enough life vests on board for the number of passengers it was carrying. Those rescued were wearing life vests, Xinhua said.
The 406 tourists, mainly aged from about 50 to 80, were on a tour organised by a Shanghai travel group, the People’s Daily reported.
A local radio station in Hubei reported that 97 of the passengers were from Shanghai, 204 from Jiangsu province, 11 from Zhejiang province, 43 from the city of Tianjin, 23 from Shandong province, 19 from Fujian province, and eight from Anhui.
A rescue team heads out to search for survivors. Photo: AFP
Relatives of the missing have gatherered outside the offices of the Shanghai travel agency that organised the trip.
The office was closed with a notice left saying that directors had gone to help with the rescue effort in Hubei province.
One man told the Xinmin Evening News that his wife, mother and sister-in-law were on the ship.
Each had paid about 2,700 yuan (HK$3,400) for the tour. The group had originally planned to go back to Shanghai on June 9. the man was quoted as saying, and he lost contact with his wife yesterday evening.
According to CCTV, the vessel — which measures 76.5 metres in length — was capable of carrying up to 534 people and was owned by a firm that operated tours in the region of the Three Gorges dam.
Search and rescue efforts after the ship sank at the Jianli section of Yangtze Rive. Photo: EPA
Xinhua said rescue work was difficult due to bad weather, strong winds and heavy rain.
CCTV said Premier Li Keqiang was on his way to the site.
China’s mightiest river, the Yangzte has killed thousands of people in floods over the years and boat accidents are not uncommon.
A total of 22 people, including eight foreigners, were killed when a tugboat sank on the river between the eastern cities of Jingjiang and Zhangjiagang in January.
After the January accident, the provincial government said the boat was undergoing trials without properly completing the required procedures and without first reporting the condition of the ship, as required by regulations.
The vessel, which measures 76.5 metres in length, was capable of carrying up to 534 people.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2015, 8:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2015, 5:42pm