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China Rights Capsized Ship, Death Toll Jumps to 82

  • VOA News

Rescue workers carry the body of a victim at the site where a cruise ship sank on Monday, in Jianli, Hubei province, June 4, 2015.

Rescue workers carry the body of a victim at the site where a cruise ship sank on Monday, in Jianli, Hubei province, June 4, 2015.

Rescuers in central China have righted a cruise ship that capsized on the Yangtze River and say there is no chance of finding anyone else alive, as the death toll reached at least 82.

The official Xinhua news agency said that one side of the capsized Eastern Star was rolled above water Friday morning after crews worked all night to right the vessel.

Only 14 people have been rescued since the ship went down in severe weather late Monday. Nearly 400 passengers, many of whom are elderly, remain missing.

The death toll is expected to drastically rise as authorities continue to probe the ship, likely making the incident China's deadliest maritime disaster in decades.

Beijing has promised an all-out effort to find survivors, but that has failed to satisfy many relatives of the missing passengers who are unhappy with a lack of information from authorities.

Scores of family members broke through a police barricade late Wednesday as they marched toward the accident site, demanding information on missing relatives.

Chinese authorities, who have tightly controlled information on the rescue effort, promised to allow the relatives to visit the site later Thursday.

The rescue has been complicated by heavy winds and rain, as well as strong currents that have pushed the capsized, shallow-draft vessel nearly three kilometers downstream from the accident site.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is coordinating recovery efforts at the disaster site -- the scene of nearly 50 rescue vessels, 3,000 troops and nearly 200 divers.

The vessel overturned Monday evening within minutes of being hit by what Chinese media describe as a tornado. The ship's captain and chief engineer, who survived the sinking, are being questioned by police.

Three bodies were recovered downriver in Yueyang in Hunan province, about 50 kilometers from the location of the ship wreck, according to the People's Daily. Rescuers say they will expand their search radius. No survivors have been found since Tuesday.

China's transportation ministry says 456 people were on board.

Earlier Wednesday, Ministry of Transport spokesperson Zhong Shoudao said the ship was designed to navigate inland waterways.

"The river ships tend to have a lower standard on wind-resistance and wave-resistance than ocean ships,'' he said. "If the force of the blowing wind was more than the ship could withstand, then it would have capsized."

China's state broadcaster, CCTV, reported that the ship is owned by the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation, which runs river tours of the fabled Three Gorges dam. It said the vessel was capable of holding up to 534 people.

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