China ship capsize: rescuers race to find survivors, 26 dead
Jianli: In a last-ditch effort, rescuers today decided to cut open the hull of the capsized cruise ship in China’s Yangtze river as time was running out to save the over 400 people trapped in the vessel in one of the country’s worst shipping tragedies that has claimed 26 lives so far.
Two days after the Eastern Star cruise ship carrying 456 people capsized in Asia’s longest river here in the central Hubei province, the clock was now ticking to find more survivors.
More than 3,000 rescuers and 110 search vessels were deployed in the search, with bad weather continuing to hamper the operations. Helicopters were also dispatched to the scene.
The four-storey cruise ship sank after being caught in a freak tornado in Jianli on Monday night and following massive rescue efforts, 14 survivors had been found with 26 dead bodies pulled out.
As dozens of divers drew blank in their search to find more survivors from the sunken cruise liner, Chinese rescuers began cutting the floating hull of the ship in a last ditch effort to retrieve survivors as well bodies from the overturned vessel.
Closely monitored by Premier Li Keqiang at the site, Chinese officials hooked the edges of the ship to high-power cranes from the decks of rescue ships to ensure that it does not sink further before they started cutting open the hull.
State television reported that officials considered plans to cut open or to lift the 76-metre sunken ship but opted for the former as it was difficult to lift the vessel with the existing machinery at the site of the tragedy.
They had refrained from cutting the hull open earlier due to the fear that the pocket of air which held the hull floating may get released resulting in the sinking of the ship to the bottom of the 6,300 km-long river.
Li stayed at the site for the second day today closely monitoring the rescue plans and egging on the rescuers not to slacken efforts to save people.
With hopes of finding any survivors fading, the rescuers planned to cut the hull at three places. More than 200 divers were working round the clock, trying to find signs of life within and around the capsized ship.
Meanwhile, many angry relatives of those missing in the capsize clashed with authorities in Shanghai, demanding more information and to be taken to the site of the tragedy on the banks of the 6,300 km-long Yangtze River.
Most passengers were tourists from Shanghai and its neighbouring province of Jiangsu, aged between 3 and 83, with most in their 60s and 70s. A small and fast-moving tornado hit the area where the ship capsized, weather officials said.
The ship was carrying 405 passengers, five tour guides, and 46 crew members.