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China mourns victims of cruise ship as death toll rises to 431


Jianli: China today held a mourning ceremony for the victims of its worst shipping disaster in 70 years after the death toll in the cruise ship that capsized in the mighty Yangtze river jumped to 431.

Only 14 people have been found alive, while another 11 people remain missing, according to the rescue headquarters in Jianli, central China’s Hubei Province.

The solemn ceremony was held in remembrance of those who died and were still missing after the 2,200-tonne Eastern Star cruise ship carrying 456 people on an 11-day trip capsized on June 1 in the Yangtze River in a storm.

Ship horns wailed as hundreds of people stood at the accident site and observed a three-minute silence after the ship was lifted with the help of the huge cranes.

Over 1,400 relatives of the deceased passengers joined the mourning for their dear ones at the event attended by China’s transport minister Yang Chuantang.

Rescue workers in white hooded surgical suits could be seen on board ship, while others in work gear, orange safety vests and military-style fatigues formed columns on the decks of massive crane vessels that raised the ill-fated ship.

According to Chinese tradition, the seventh day after one’s death is an occasion for the deceased’s relatives to mourn the passing of their loved one.

More than 3,400 soldiers, 1,700 paramilitary people together with 149 vessels, 59 machines and a helicopter had joined the rescue mission.

The body of the youngest victim of the tragedy, a three- year-old girl, was among the hundreds of bodies retrieved from the murky waters after disaster response teams stabilised the cruiser in an upright position on Friday.

Authorities have requested that river traffic and others along the river alert them if they noticed any floating bodies.

Authorities have attributed the overturning of the ship to sudden, severe winds, but have placed the captain and his first engineer under police custody pending investigation.

Jiang Zhao, legal representative of Chongqing Dongfang Shipping Company that owns the Eastern Star, on Friday apologised to all the victims and their families and promised to cooperate with any investigation.

The 76.5-meter vessel had been in service for nearly 20 years and can carry up to 534 people. It went through an annual maintenance in late 2014, and was qualified to cruise until April 25, 2016, according to Jiang.

In a sign of mourning, China’s state and other major TV channels have suspended some entertainment programmes.

The Eastern Star disaster became China’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.

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