Hundreds Still Missing After Cruise Ship Capsizes on Yangtze River
CHONGQING, China, June 2 (UPI) — Chinese state media reported Tuesday evening just 14 people survived after a cruise ship carrying 456 passengers capsized on an isolated stretch of the Yangtze River.
The Oriental Star had keeled over late Monday when strong gusts of wind and torrential rain created tornado conditions, according to The New York Times.
Hundreds are feared dead, but so far only five bodies have been recovered, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua. The remaining passengers, either dead or alive, are highly likely to be trapped inside the vessel.
The total number of missing passengers was 437 by late Tuesday evening, nearly a day after the accident occurred in Jianli County, in the central Chinese province of Hubei.
The four-level Oriental Star was winding its way along the world’s third-longest river from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing, when a tornado hit.
One survivor said the wind was blowing “like crazy,” 30 minutes before the ship overturned into the brown river, at 9:28 p.m., local time.
The ship sank in less than two minutes, The Guardian reported.
Chinese authorities rounded up local villagers for voluntary rescue work, and they accompanied the country’s military, police and emergency personnel into the disaster area. China has announced plans that call for 183 divers to arrive in the zone by Wednesday.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang rushed to the scene on Tuesday, according to Xinhua, a gesture that shows the government “genuinely cares about its people,” according to Chen Shoumin, the commander of the local military district.
China’s central government is taking the accident seriously, which is the worst public disaster for the country since a high-speed train crashed in 2011, killing 40 people.
In an event that mirrored the South Korean passenger ship tragedy a year earlier, details have emerged the Oriental Star’s captain left the ship, while the passengers were still missing.
Victims’ families have said the government in Beijing must bear responsibility for the accident.