Sunk Cruise Ship in China Cut Open but no Survivors Found

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said the sections were welded back to the hull to preserve the ship\'s buoyancy and balance.

Published: 04th June 2015 04:55 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th June 2015 04:55 PM   |  A+A-


JIANLI: Rescuers today cut three holes in the hull of a cruise ship that sank in the Yangtze river but found no survivors as China assured angry relatives of "no cover up" in one of the country's worst maritime tragedies in which the death toll rose to 65 and some 400 others remained missing.

Amid fading hopes of finding more survivors among the 456 people on board the ill-fated 'Eastern Star' that capsized in a freak tornado on Monday night, rescuers cut open the overturned hull at three places in a last-ditch effort.

A 55 cm X 60 cm rectangular hole was made on the bottom of the vessel and rescuers continued to cut through the floating hull into sections after stabilising it with cranes while the divers combed the 76-metre ship for over 370 people still missing, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said the sections were welded back to the hull to preserve the ship's buoyancy and balance.

The death toll in the tragedy in the mighty Yangtze, Asia's longest river, today rose to 65 as rescuers retrieved another 39 bodies till morning.

Only 14 survivors, including the captain, have been found since the four-storey ship carrying 456 people, mostly elderly Chinese holiday-makers, capsized in a freak tornado on Monday, in what could be China's worst shipping disaster in decades.

Authorities have been trying to pacify angry relatives, some of whom staged a protest near the site and broke through police cordons for information.

The Chinese government said rescuers would "take all possible measures" to save the injured and promised a "serious investigation".

"We will never shield mistakes and we'll absolutely not cover up (anything)," Xu Chengguang, Transport Ministry spokesman told reporters, adding a preliminary investigation had begun.

President Xi Jinping convened a special meeting of the ruling Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee, China's highest decision-making body, this morning to discuss the rescue and ways to handle the tragedy's aftermath.

Information on the tragedy has so far been strictly- controlled and officials gave few details on the progress of the recovery efforts even as relatives of those missing remained anxious about their safety.

Premier Li Keqiang has been personally overseeing the rescue efforts in the disaster site in the central Hubei province county of Jianli.

Questions persist over why the ship made a sudden turn 10 minutes before capsizing and whether a tornado recorded in the area at the time of the accident had directly hit the ship, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

"If the voyage data recorder (the black box of the ship) shows the captain made the turn in the stormy weather instead of losing control, it would be fair to say he bears responsibility for the tragedy," said You Qinghua, a professor at Shanghai Maritime University.

The captain and chief engineer of the ship - that was carrying 405 passengers, five tour guides, and 46 crew members - are in police custody.

About 80 family members wanted to hire a bus and go from Nanjing to Jianli, where the ship sank but were prevented by security officials.

In Shanghai, where the tour company most passengers had booked through - Xiehe Travel - is based, some grieving families even clashed with authorities.

A protester told reporters: "We want somebody from the local government to receive us and tell all family members what we should do."

Chen Yuanjian, a director of the ship's operator, a Chongqing company called Dongfang, admitted the ship's structure had been modified but said this was done only to meet updated standards from the shipping authorities, news website The Paper reported.

Large numbers of refrigerated coffins were seen being delivered to a local funeral parlour in Jianli as authorities braced for hundreds more corpses. Relatives of the passengers have travelled to Jianli to be near the wreck, many from Nanjing where the cruise began in late May.


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