Hopes fade for hundreds missing in capsized China ship

Rescue workers divided into three forces to search and rescue people from capsized ship in Yangtze River

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Rescue workers and divers continue to search in the Yangtze River to find any more survivors as 400 people are still missing after a cruise ship capsized on Tuesday, with the latest death toll standing at 18.

Many of the victims are elderly tourists and officials say it could be China's worst ship disaster in almost a decade. There were also children on board, some as young as three years old.

14 people were found alive during last night's rescue efforts, including the ship's captain, who was detained by the police for questioning. The search area has been expanded and rescue workers have been divided into three forces to look for bodies.

"I believe those who operate the boats have expertise about this, but the weather was unusually bad for these parts," a resident who lives near the area told Reuters.

Witnesses said the extreme weather conditions and heavy rain may have caused the disaster. The country's weather bureau said there was a tornado in the area when the accident happened.

Meanwhile, relatives of the missing people who are anxiously waiting for information, protested in Shanghai, where the passengers booked their trip. Family members scuffled with officials as they marched down on the city's main street.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also went to inspect rescue work and visited the survivors of the tourist cruise. He called search teams to “seize every second, battle the fatigue and challenge the extremes” to find survivors, Xinhua reported.

There were 406 tourists on board along with 47 crew members when the ship overturned within two minutes. The Eastern Star, with capacity for more than 500 people, was journeying to southwest China’s Chongqing city from Nanjing, the capital of east China’s Jiangsu Province.

China’s worst ship disaster happened in 1948, when a steamship blew up on the Huangpu River, killing more than 1,000 people.

TRTWorld and agencies