HUNDREDS FEARED DEAD IN YANGTZE RIVER BOAT DISASTER

2015.06.02

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Five people have died and hundreds are missing after a cruise ship carrying 458 people capsized on the Yangtze River in Jianli, Hubei province, China, 2 June 2015.

Officials say at least 15 people survived, with some found alive inside the submerged hull of the Eastern Star.

The captain and the chief engineer, who both survived, have been detained. They say the boat was caught in a cyclone. The boat sent no emergency signal, with the alarm reportedly raised by those who had swum to shore. Other reports said the crew of another vessel alerted the authorities after rescuing the captain from the water. Chinese media quoted the captain as saying the vessel sank within minutes, while many people were asleep.

Most of those on board were tourists aged between 50 and 80 who were travelling from the eastern city of Nanjing to Chongqing in the south-west - a journey of at least 1,500km (930 miles). The ship sank in the Damazhou waterway section of the Yangtze, where the world's third longest river reaches depths of about 15m (50ft).

No doubt for some of those on the Eastern Star it would have been the trip of a lifetime. And the Three Gorges Dam - a place of pilgrimage in its own right and a powerful symbol of China's rising economic might attracting about two million visitors a year - now has its part to play in the rescue. The dam's engineers have been ordered to reduce the water volume flowing through the giant turbines.

The sinking of the Eastern Star will resonate widely.

A boat full of everyday Chinese tourists - from grandmothers and grandfathers down to the youngest listed passenger at just three years old - has been lost in the waters of the country's best-loved river. At least 15 people have so far been rescued and some with minor injuries have been taken to hospital, officials said. One survivor, tour guide Zhang Hui, told the Xinhua state news agency how he had clambered out of a window in torrential rain and struggled ashore holding a life vest and branch. "Wave after wave crashed over me; I swallowed a lot of water," he said. Three other survivors were rescued from inside the upside-down hull of the ship after it was cut open, Xinhua said.

Strong winds and heavy rain have been hampering the rescue efforts. According to the People's Daily, three bodies were recovered in Yueyang, Hunan province, some 50km away.

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Original article by bbc.co.uk. Click here for full report.