More than 360 still missing in tipped over Chinese ship

Rescuers in China pull more bodies in Yangtze river as death toll reaches to 75, families demand answers

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The death toll from a ship that tipped over on China’s Yangtze river has reached 75, according to local media reports on Thursday, however more than 360 people are still missing and families of the victims demanded answers, breaking a police barrier and marching to the site of the incident.

A further 39 bodies were washed up to the shore, CCTV reported. So far 14 people have been identified as surviving the tipping of the ship carrying 456 people over the advance of a heavy tornado on Monday, in an accident some are calling China’s worst shipping incident in 70 years.

Emergency service are continuing their rescue procedures at the site of the ship that was mainly carrying Chinese tourists.

The officials have decided to cut a hole through the ship known as the Eastern Star to get better access, local media has reported.

"The ship sank in a very short time frame, so there could still be air trapped in the hull," Li Qixiu of the Naval University said.

"That means there could still be survivors," he added.

Over 80 family members of the victims, demanded more information from the authorities, hiring a bus for an eight-hour journey from Nanjing to the site of the incident in Hubei where the ship tipped over.

A police barrier that restricted access was broken down by the families, the authorities could not stop them from entering the site.

June 4 also marks the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square student protests of 1989.

The deputy police chief of Jiangsu province told the victims’ families earlier on Thursday that they only have permission to visit the site during daylight.

He also organised buses for them to visit the ship in the morning, but prohibited entrance for journalists.

The ship was on an 11-day voyage, travelling from Nanjing to Chongqing.

Residents living nearby offered water for the families and people tied yellow ribbons to their car mirrors.

The families of the victims have questioned the authorities on why all the rescued were crew members and why the rescued crew and captain had time to put on life vests but not sound the alarm.

The families have also requested from the authorities to release the names of the survivors and the dead.

The search area has extended to 220 km in length, indicating the possibility of bodies swept further offshore.

The authorities have detained the captain and head engineer for a thorough interrogation. Further investigations have concluded that the ship did not exceed its weight limit and that there were enough life vests on board.

Local media has reported the incident as the worst ship disaster in China since steamship Kiangya exploded on the Huangpu river, leading to death over 1,000 people.

State media said it was the worst recorded ship disaster on the Yangtze River. In 1948, the steamship Kiangya blew up on the Huangpu river, killing more than 1,000 people.

TRTWorld and agencies