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River cruise ship with 458 sinks

Updated: 2015-06-02 12:10
By Zhao Yinan and Zhao Huanxin in Jianli county, Hubei province, Xu Wei in Beijing and Tan Yingzi in Chongqing (China Daily USA)

More than 440, including many elderly, are missing

More than 440 people were missing after a luxury river cruise was overturned by a cyclone in the Hubei section of the Yangtze River at around 9:30 pm on Monday, with only 10 people rescued so far, maritime authorities said.

 River cruise ship with 458 sinks

Rescue work is underway after the ship Eastern Star, carrying 458 people, sank on Monday evening in the Yangtze River near Jianli,Huibei province. The ship was sailing from Nanjing in East China's Jiangsu province to West China's Chongqing municipality. Xinhua

The Eastern Star river cruise, with 458 people on board, was traveling from Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province to Chongqing when it was overturned a sudden cyclone in the Yangtze River section near Jianli county of Hubei province.

Rescuers have managed to pull 11 people, including 10 alive, from the river section, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

President Xi Jinping called for an all-out rescue effort for those on board early on Tuesday, 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 departed for the rescue scene of the river section on Tuesday morning. He was expected to arrive at the scene by noon Beijing time.

In a conference held at the flight bound for the rescue scene, Li called for a maximum effort to be mobilized to the rescue effort, and the rescue of people should be the top priority.

Authorities have so far mobilized more than 150 vessels, including 100 fishing ships, to the rescue effort. More than 3,000 rescuers, including police officers and reserve forces soldiers were roaming the river banks in search of survivors.

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

China Central Television reported that the wide river surface and the large size of the ship has made the rescue effort difficult, as authorities have to dispatch the salvage ships with larger capacities from other provinces to the rescue effort.

The State Council has identified the accident as an accident caused by extreme weather conditions. Rescuers have so far identified the location where the cruise ship sank and the rescue effort is still under way.

The cyclone strike was so quick that the river cruise failed to send out rescue signals when it was overturned. A majority of the passengers and crews have already been prepared for sleep when the ship sunk, the Hubei Daily reported, quoting rescued cruise crews.

The alert was not sent out to maritime authorities until several crews on the ship swam to nearby fishermen, who called for help in the river at around 10 pm, the report said.

The 458 people on board included 406 passengers, 47 crew members and five tour guides.

The passengers included 97 from Shanghai, 204 from Jiangsu province and 43 from Tianjian. The passengers from Shanghai were mostly senior citizens aged between 50 and 80 from Shanghai, according to the report.

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

It is one of five luxury cruises owned by the company, and was put into service in 1994.

So far all the cruises from Chongqing to Hubei province's Yichang have not been affected by the incident and will operate as usual, said some local travel agency and cruise company.

Chongqing Century Cruise Company said its Yangtze River cruises will run as scheduled. Chongqing Youth Travel Agency said they have received notice from the Chongqing Water Authority on Tuesday morning that the part from Chongqing to Yichang on Yangtze River is in normal operation.

Tan Yingzi in Chongqing and Liu Kun in Hubei contributed to the story

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