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Chinese rescuers lift capsized ship; death toll jumps to 97

Rescue workers carry a boat as they conduct a search, after a ship sank in the Jianli section of the Yangtze River

Jianli: Chinese rescuers today lifted a cruise ship capsized in the mighty Yangtze river using massive cranes to quicken the search for the more than 300 people who are still missing, even as the death toll jumped to 97.

Transport ministry’s spokesman Xu Chengguang told reporters that so far 97 bodies have been retrieved from the ship that had 456 people onboard when it capsized on Monday.

Footage shown by state television showed that one side of the capsized 2,200-tonne Eastern Star ship was lifted above the water with heavy cranes.

A large part of the four-storey ship was found heavily damaged.

Rescuers plan to enter the ship to look for survivors if any or to retrieve bodies.

The search and rescue team started to lift the capsized ship at 8 PM yesterday, according to the Transport Ministry.

The ship has been lifted by cranes capable of lifting the whole vessel and set it upright.

Experts in diving, recovery, relief and ship design from across the country are on the spot to provide support.

The cruise ship carrying mainly elderly tourists was on a 11-day trip along the Yangtze River when it was immediately overturned by a freak tornado on Monday night in Jianli in central China’s Hubei Province.

Only 14 people have been found alive so far. The tally of survivors means that the final toll of dead is likely to reach 442, making the tragedy China’s worst shipping disaster in nearly 70 years, state media have reported.

Over 200 divers, who searched the overturned ship since Tuesday and managed to rescue two people, finally halted their operations at 8 PM last night after through checks conducted by scanners to detect life yielded no results.

A number of passengers were also believed to have drowned or washed away by river current.

Meanwhile, after vocal protests from the relatives of those missing in the tragedy, the government brought over 1,200 people here with special transport arrangements and housed them in nearby hotels.

Authorities have been trying to pacify angry relatives, some of whom staged a protest near the site and broke through police cordons for information. They were being closely monitored after their arrival in the area and were frustrated at not being allowed to the riverbank.

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