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Five detained for deadly boat capsizal
Updated: 2004-06-24 15:27

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.

The accident occurred at around 8:00 p.m. Tuesday when the boat Mingzhu No. 2 carrying suddenly sank in a rainstorm and all the 65 sightseers and four crew members on board fell into the water. One person has been confirmed dead and 25 others rescued, with the remaining 43 still missing, all of whom are feared dead.

The tourists are all staff members of Xinghua Fine Chemical Plant in Kaifeng City some 200 km away, whose management rented two boats that day for 129 employees to tour the Xiaolangdi Reservoir of a mammoth water conservancy project on the Yellow River.

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 when a powerful storm struck as the boat sailed along a 60-metre-deep reservoir on the lower reaches of the Yellow River.

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.

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.

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