Beijing, June 2: At least 400 people, mostly the elderly, are missing after a ship capsized on the Yangtze river in southern China after being caught in a cyclone, with strong winds and heavy rains hindering the rescue efforts.
458 people were on board Dongfangzhixing or "Eastern Star", which was headed from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank in the Jianli section of the river, in Hubei province, at around 9:28 pm last night, the river navigation administration said.
Most of the passengers had retired for the night when the incident happened. Ten people have been rescued, including the captain and chief engineer, who both said the vessel had been caught in a cyclone, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The official CCTV, however, put the number of those saved at 35. The ship was overturned "by strong winds on a scale of 12 (up 130 km per hour) when cruising at the Jianli section", a local newspaper quoted MeT department officials as saying. The ship sank within two minutes after being caught in a cyclone, they said. Authorities have located the site of the incident as a part of the ship, which turned upside down, emerged out of the river.
More than 30 boats have been pressed into rescue operations, state run Xinhua news agency reported. More than 10 relief ships have also been dispatched to the area with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang himself rushing to the site to oversee the search operation.
Rescuers are battling strong winds and heavy rains in the search for missing. The the four-level ship was carrying 406 Chinese tourists, mostly in the 50 to 80 years age group, five travel agency workers and 47 crew members. Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered "all-out rescue efforts" while Premier Li Keqiang asked a work team from the State Council, China's Cabinet, to direct search and rescue work.
The Ministry of Transport and departments concerned were ordered to mobilize all resources available to speed up the search and rescue work and the treatment of the rescued people.