Death toll in China ship sinking hits nearly 400World
JIANLI: The death toll in the Eastern Star capsizing rose to nearly 400 on Saturday after disaster teams stabilized the river cruiser in an upright position and searched it for more bodies, making it China's deadliest boat disaster in nearly seven decades.
Authorities have attributed the overturning of the ship in the Yangtze River late Monday to sudden, severe winds, but also have placed the captain and his first engineer under police custody.
Passengers' relatives have raised questions about whether the ship should have continued its cruise after the storm started in a section of Hubei province and despite a weather warning earlier in the evening.
Heavy rains in the Yangtze area over four days beginning Monday have killed 15 people and left eight others missing, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said. Hundreds more bodies from the Eastern Star were found overnight and Saturday, bringing the death toll to 396, Hu Kaihong, the vice director-general of the press bureau of the State Council Information Office, told a news conference.
The boat had more than 450 people aboard, many of them elderly tourists, for a cruise from Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing.
Fourteen people survived, including three pulled out by divers from air pockets in the overturned hull on Tuesday.
Disaster teams put chains around the hull and used cranes to roll the banged-up, white and blue boat upright and then gradually lift it out of the gray currents of the Yangtze on Friday.
China's deadliest maritime disaster in recent decades was the Dashun ferry, which caught fire and capsized off Shandong province in November 1999, killing about 280.
The Eastern Star disaster could become the country's worst since the sinking of the SS Kiangya off Shanghai in 1948, which is believed to have killed anywhere from 2,750 to nearly 4,000 people.