China / Society

Pontoon bridge squad stands by for rescue operation

By Zhao Huanxin ( Updated: 2015-06-02 19:52

Near Erjitou, a small area of Jianli county, Hubei province about 30 minutes by boat from the site where a passenger ship capsized on Monday night, at least 70 members of a pontoon bridge troop from Wuhan were awaiting orders.

Dongfangzhixing, or Eastern Star, sank at around 9:28 pm with 458 people on board in the Jianli section of the Yangtze River, according to the Yangtze River navigation administration.

The troopers left the capital of Hubei province at around 7 am Tuesday in a convoy of 20 trucks laden with assault boats, according to Su Junjie, a publicity officer for the military unit.

By 6 pm, Su said they were still waiting for their opportunity to offer help as other rescuers had been cutting open the capsized passenger ferry to search for victims and trying to turn the vessel upright.

No tents had been set up by 6:30 pm, meaning that it is unlikely the rescue troop would stay nearby for the whole night, and that a rescue operation could be imminent.

The search and rescue operation had been made difficult by lingering rain throughout Tuesday but the weather was better than on Monday night.

Liu Yang, a resident near Erjitou, said a heavy rainstorm began to hit Jianli county at around 7 pm on Monday. It peaked at around 9 pm, with lightening and thunder so strong as to smash windows and caused a power outage to much of his community.

"We have never experienced such adverse weather conditions," said the 35-year-old. "Nor have I heard of an accident more disastrous than the one that happened last night."

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