China: ship carrying more than 450 people sinks in Yangtze river

Baku, June 2, AZERTAC

More than 400 people are missing after a Chinese passenger boat sank on the Yangtze river after being hit by what the captain described as a cyclone, according to the Guardian.

Five bodies have so far been recovered from the Dongfangzhixing, or Eastern Star, vessel, which was carrying 458 people when it went down at around 9.30pm on Monday night not far from the city of Jingzhou in Hubei province.

Although local reports were conflicting, it appeared that about 20 people had been rescued, with heavy rain and strong winds hindering the work of emergency teams.

Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said the ship’s captain and chief engineer were among the survivors, and both were detained by police. Seven survivors were said to have swum to shore to alert the authorities to the sinking.

No distress call was sent by the ship, which is said to have sunk within two minutes.

China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, headed to the scene of the disaster to lead the rescue effort.

The president, Xi Jinping, ordered an “all-out” search and rescue effort as China braced itself for a major disaster.

Eastern Star had been travelling from Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, to the south-western city of Chongqing when the incident happened, according to Xinhua.

After encountering extreme weather conditions that crew members described as a cyclone the ship “sank quickly”.

Reports said there were 406 Chinese passengers, five travel agency employees and 47 crew members on the ship.

Most of the passengers were aged between 50 and 80, and were travelling with Shanghai agency Xiehe Travel. The tour agency’s offices remained closed on Tuesday, as relatives of the missing gathered outside.

The Eastern Star was 251 feet long, 36 feet wide and had could carry 534 people, the newspaper added.

On Tuesday morning, its wreckage was around 15 metres beneath the surface of the river, the Hubei Daily added.

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