Search continues as death toll rises to 11 after ferry sinks in central China

Updated: 2011-09-10 04:48


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SHAOYANG-- At least 11 people, mostly students from primary and middle schools, were confirmed dead after a ferryboat sank in a river in central Hunan Province Friday afternoon, local authorities said.

Rescuers are still searching for those missing, said Chen Wenhua, a publicity official of Shaoyang City.

The death toll was previously put at eight by another publicity official.

Tang Dingming, head of the county's publicity department, said earlier that six students and two adults died in the accident that occured in Fuyi River in the county, some 250 km southwest of Hunan provincial capital of Changsha.

Tang said a total of 39 passengers, including 33 students and six adults, were aboard the vessel when it capsized and sank at about 3 p.m.

Chen said 43 people were aboard the boat.

Tang said 14 people were rescued and sent to hospitals in the county, and local authorities were working to verify how many students were missing.

Xinhua reporters who rushed to the scene at about 10:25 p.m. saw 10 bodies, all covered with white blankets, were lined up at the bank of the river.

A female witness who declined to give her name said the bodies of 10 students were pulled out of the water. Another student was sent to a nearby hospital but later died after treatment failed.

Rescue and search work are still going on along the river, and police are maintaining order at the site.

Some local officials are trying to console the bereaved families, some of whom are still wailing.

Local villagers and police officers have joined in search and rescue operations after the accident.

Witnesses said a student from the boat pulled two people out of the water but drowned himself, apparently out of exhaustion, when he was trying to rescue the third one.

The students were returning home for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional Chinese holiday for family reunions that falls on Sept. 12 this year.

The ferry's owner survived the accident and is now in police custody, according to Tang.

Witnesses said overloading was probably to blame for the accident.

The Hunan provincial government has since issued an emergency notice to order a thorough inspection and overhaul of docks and piers to crack down on overloading and illegal operations.

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