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36 still missing as search goes on
By Guan Xiaofeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-25 00:41

Search and rescue efforts to find the missing 36 passengers following the Yellow River ferry sinking have been stepped up.

But fears that the death toll will rise increase with each passing hour.

Twenty-one of the 69 passengers on board the vessel were plucked to safety, while 12 bodies were later recovered. Initial investigations suggest the ferry was overloaded when it capsized on Thursday morning in Linyi County, North China's Shanxi Province.

The boat was en route to a small island in the middle of the Yellow River, China's second longest.

A number of adverse factors seem to have combined to contribute to the accident, including rough weather, overloading and defective steering, said local police.

One of the survivors, Liu Huiying, described how a huge wave had struck the boat sending water gushing into the cabin as it dropped anchor. Within minutes the boat had capsized flinging most of the passengers, and its owner into the fast running waters.

The passengers, all from the village of Zhangguo, Linyi County, grew cotton on the island and were on their way to pick their crops when tragedy struck.

The unlicenced boat was owned by Fan Zongyi, a farmer from the same village, who often ferried passengers free of charge.

The rescue operation is being organized by the local government, while helicopters from the People's Liberation Army helped in the search for survivors.

The governor of Shanxi later visited the scene to get first hand information about the accident.

Sanmenxia, a city on the opposite bank in neighbouring Henan Province, set up 16 rescue sites along the river to help.

Rescue efforts have been hampered because this is wet season and the river is running fast and deep.

Local police and volunteers along the Yellow River are continuing to dispatch more boats to help search for possible survivors.

"We won't give up until the last moment," said one policeman involved in the operation.

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