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43 missing in boat capsizal feared dead
By Wu Gang (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-06-24 01:18

Rescue crews from Beijing and Shanghai rushed to Central China's Jiyuan Province Wednesday to aid in recovery efforts after a tourist boat capsized in a Tuesday storm, leaving 43 people missing.

Officials fear all of the missing passengers are dead.

An injured tourist is sent to a local hospital after a boat capsized Tuesday evening in a sudden storm at Xiaolangdi Reservoir in Central China's Henan Province. [newsphoto]

The boat overturned at about 8 pm when a powerful storm struck as the boat sailed along a 60-metre-deep reservoir on the lower reaches of the Yellow River. One passenger was confirmed dead, one injured, while the 43 others went missing.

At the request of Henan Province authorities, the Ministry of Communications dispatched salvage experts and divers from Shanghai and Beijing. They arrived Wednesday with two cargo containers of equipment. But their efforts were delayed until this morning, since night had fallen Wednesday before all personnel and equipment were in place.

A tour group of 129 people on two different boats was on an excursion in the Xiaolangdi Reservoir when the boat overturned and sank.

The "Pearl No. 2," capsized when a sudden squall hit, sending 69 people on board into the water, including two crewmen and two guides.

"The strong winds came in suddenly together with lightning and thunder after the boat was about eight kilometres out onto the reservoir," China News Service quoted a survivor as saying.

The boatman asked the tourists to close the windows. So they did. But it was too late.

Within half a minute, the boat tilted to one side and touched the water. Then it turned over, the report said.

People scrambled for their lives, with many clutching the bottom of the boat as it floated on the water. Some began to make mobile phone calls for help.

"I could hear people knocking on the boat from under the water," a survivor recalled.

A small boat came by 10 minutes later. By about 2 am, 26 people had been rescued, including one who died on the way to hospital, and another who was seriously injured.

The injured person has been stabilized, Lu Xinlai, a Jiyuan government spokesman, told China Daily by telephone.

He refused to discuss the missing tourists' fate.

The storm, which lasted only six or seven minutes, was devastating and graded at about 9 to 10 degrees, Lu quoted local meteorologists as saying.

A large number of trees and power line posts in the city of Jiyuan were brought down by winds.

The reservoir excursion was organized by a chemical plant in Kaifeng for Communist Party members to celebrate the July 1 Party founding day.

Tour guides had arranged to view a high-pressure release of water from the Xiaolangdi Dam, part of ongoing project to clear silt from the river bottom.

But having tourist boats cruise during such a period is against safety regulations.

Two boat operator supervisors from the Pearl Island Tourism Development Co are in police custody during an investigation that continues, Lu said.

People detained for boat accident

Five people who are found responsible for the boat sinking accident in the Xiaolangdi Reservoir in Henan Province, central China, have been detained, a local official said Thursday.

These detainees are General Manager Zhang Zongmin of Jiyuan Mingzhu Island Tourism Development Corporation, General Manger Liu Sanxi and Deputy General Manager Shi Hongwei of Mingzhu Island Tourism Corporation, Captain of the sunk boat Li Xiaohui and engineer on the boat Liu Dongwu, said Mayor Duan Xizhong of Jiyuan City, where the mishap took place.

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