A long-haul ferry on the Yangtze River in China sank Monday night after a cyclone overtook the boat. Hundreds are missing and likely dead, and rescue workers were desperately pulling survivors from their cabins.
The Yangtze river ferry was named the Dongfangzhixing (Eastern Star) and was carrying 405 passengers, 47 crew members and five employees on from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing. Moreover, the large majority of the passengers on the ship were elderly tourists ranging from ages of 50 to 80.
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Chinese state CCTV reported earlier that at least five people have been confirmed dead and at least 18 people had survived.
Five rescued from overturned Yangtze river ferry
According to Chinese media, on Tuesday morning, divers managed to rescue three people alive, extricating them from inside the capsized cruise ship and were continuing to search for other survivors. Of note, the captain and the engineer of the long-haul ferry / cruise ship both managed to escape the craft and swim to the shore. Officials say that at least 400 people are still missing.
More on Yangtze river ferry disaster
The ship sank on Monday at close to 9:30 p.m. in the Damazhou waterway section of the fabled Yangtze river. The part of the river has a depth of close to 50 feet, according to the New China News Agency.
Apparently crew members called for help around 11:51 p.m. after swimming to shore, close to two hours after the boat sank. So far no explanation has been provided for the delay.
President Xi Jinping “issued important instructions immediately” to launch a major search and rescue effort to Hubei province. Premier Li Keqiang also showed up at the scene of the disaster Tuesday afternoon.
The capsized ship had floated nearly two miles downstream before lodging to the river shore, where fast currents complicated rescue efforts. The location is about 110 miles west of the city of Wuhan.
That the ship had drifted downstream after the accident was a good sign because it meant there was enough air inside to keep it afloat, and there could possibly be enough air pockets for survivors to hang on, noted Chi-Mo Park, a professor of naval architecture and ocean engineering in South Korea.
Statement from family member of victims
“I’m very, very sad,” said Qu Qing, a woman from Changzhou city, who had a number of elderly family members on board the boat who spoke to the media. “My father, his three younger sisters and one younger brother, [and] my mother boarded on May 28 in Nanjing. They saw a travel ad on the local newspaper, then they contacted the travel agency and went. My father was so happy!
“We can’t accept this as reality,” she continued, sobbing. “All of our relatives are trying to find information on the Internet. We learned that the authorities in Nanjing and Shanghai were consoling the families, so I went with my uncle and my uncle-in-law … to the Changzhou Tourism Bureau, but we were treated terribly. We had to take instant cardio-reliever pills to pull through it.”