China Cruise Ship Death Toll Reaches 77; 365 Still Missing
JIANLI, China, June 4 (UPI) — Chinese authorities have reported the death toll from an overturned cruise ship in the Yangtze River has reached 77 and that 365 are still missing.
Search-and-rescue teams have worked around the clock, and the search area has expanded to over 130 miles downstream from the shipwreck, The New York Times reported.
The rescue efforts, however, may be drawing to a close. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that cranes on barges were moving into position to prepare for the recovery of the capsized ship.
Such a maneuver indicates the state is planning to discontinue its rescue efforts, according to experts. Alan Loynd, managing director of Hong Kong-based Branscombe Marine Consultants, a salvage operations specialist, said vessels locked under water are left undisturbed if survivors are believed to be inside.
Movement risks disturbing air pockets that could otherwise help survivors live “for quite some time.”
A general moratorium on press coverage was creating an atmosphere of censorship on the accident.
As the 26th anniversary of Tiananmen Square approached, “Oriental Star” and “shipwreck” were being censored from search on China’s micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo.
Unlike the coverage of the TransAsia Airways crash in Taiwan in February, or the Sewol ferry sinking in South Korea a year earlier, the Oriental Star capsizing was not broadcast on live-streaming video.
According to The New York Times, the front pages of China’s newspapers carried the same photograph of a 65-year-old woman being rescued from the river on the day of the accident.
State-approved stories spotlighted heroic rescuers, including the account of a navy diver who rescued a 21-year-old crew member.
Family members of victims, meanwhile, were complaining they were facing difficulties obtaining information from officials.