China / Society

Luxury river cruise with 458 on board overturns after tornado strikes

By ZHAO YINAN in Jianli county, Hubei province and XU WEI in Beijing ( Updated: 2015-06-02 08:44

A luxury river cruise with 458 people on board was overturned by a tornado in the Hubei section of the Yangtze River at around 9:28 pm on Monday, with 12 people have been rescued, maritime authorities said.

The "Eastern Star" river cruise, which was bound for Chongqing after departing from Nanjing on Monday, overturned after a sudden tornado in the Yangtze River section near Jianli county of Hubei province.

Rescuers have managed to pull 12 people from the overturned cruise, the Hubei Daily reported, quoting the Changjiang Maritime Safety Administration.

President Xi Jinping has called on an all-out rescue effort, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Premier Li Keqiang has also demanded a full rescue effort to reduce the number of casualties to a minimum as he arrived at the rescue scene of the river section on Tuesday morning.

The State Council has identified the accident as an accident caused by extreme weather conditions. Rescuers have so far identified the location of the sunken cruise and the rescue effort is underway.

The tornado strike was so quick that the river cruise failed to send out rescue signal when it overturned. A majority of the passengers and crews had already gone to sleep when the ship sunk, the Hubei Daily reported.

The alert was not sent out to maritime authorities until passing ships found people calling for help in the river at around 10 pm, the report said.

The river cruise, which belonged to the Chongqing Dongfang River Cruise Co, has a designated capacity of 534 passengers.

The 458 people on board include 406 passengers, 47 crews and five tour guides. A majority of the passengers on board the cruise was senior residents aged between 50 and 80 from Shanghai, according to the report.

The river cruise, one of the five luxury cruises owned by the company, was put into service in 1994.

The rescue effort has been hampered by the strong winds and torrential rain at the scene, as rescuers struggled to reach the victims on the cruise. The fact that the river cruise was overturned in the river water has also made the rescue effort more difficult.

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