JIANLI, China (AP) — Disaster teams searched the Yangtze River on Saturday for dozens of missing bodies from the Eastern Star as the death toll in the cruiser’s capsizing rose to nearly 400, making it China’s deadliest boat disaster in nearly seven decades. Authorities have attributed the overturning of the ship late Monday to sudden, severe winds, but also have placed the captain and his first engineer in police custody. Passengers’ relatives have raised questions about whether the ship should have continued its cruise after the storm started in a section of Hubei province and despite a weather warning earlier in the evening.
Aerial shot shows the capsized #EasternStar ship on the Yangtze River just before technicians begin to upright the ship. The death toll has now risen to 82, with 14 survivors.
Posted by CCTV America on Thursday, June 4, 2015
Hu said authorities were increasing their efforts to search for the missing and had expanded the target area from the middle reaches of the Yangtze more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) downstream to Shanghai. The boat had more than 450 people aboard, many of them elderly tourists, for a cruise from Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing. Fourteen people survived, including three pulled out by divers from air pockets in the overturned hull on Tuesday.
Disaster teams put chains around the hull and used cranes to roll the banged-up, white and blue boat upright and then gradually lift it out of the gray currents of the Yangtze on Friday. Forensic teams are using DNA matching to identify the remains, but haven’t said how long the process would take. On Saturday night, relatives were taken by bus to an area just upriver of the now-righted ship, where they burned incense and tossed flowers into the Yangtze in memory of the dead.
The Eastern Star disaster became the country’s worst since the sinking of the SS Kiangya off Shanghai in 1948, which is believed to have killed anywhere from 2,750 to nearly 4,000 people. China’s deadliest maritime disaster in recent decades was the Dashun ferry, which caught fire and capsized off Shandong province in November 1999, killing about 280 people. Meanwhile, a TV station, Jiangsu Satellite, canceled the popular dating show “If You Are the One” and the rest of its entertainment shows on Saturday for three days because it was “in deep mourning,” it said.
Source: AP/Huffington Post/Youtube
Associated Press writer Louise Watt and news assistant Henry Hou in Beijing contributed to this report.