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Hundreds Missing After Boat Sinks in Central China

  • VOA News

Rescue workers are seen atop the sunken ship in the Jianli section of Yangtze River, Hubei province, China, June 3, 2015.

Rescue workers are seen atop the sunken ship in the Jianli section of Yangtze River, Hubei province, China, June 3, 2015.

Rescue crews in central China are working through the night in an effort to locate any survivors of a passenger ship that sank during a storm in the Yangtze River.

The Xinhua news agency reported that only 14 people have been rescued and seven bodies recovered so far. More than 430 people remain missing.

More than 3,000 troops and 48 vessels are involved in the rescue operation, according to state media.

Rescue workers carry a body from the sunken ship in the Jianli section of Yangtze River, Hubei province, China, June 2, 2015.

Rescue workers carry a body from the sunken ship in the Jianli section of Yangtze River, Hubei province, China, June 2, 2015.

The vessel, Dongfangzhixing or Eastern Star, overturned Monday evening within minutes of being caught in a heavy storm. The ship's captain and chief engineer, who were among the survivors, described it as a tornado. Both are being questioned by police.

State media report divers are searching the passenger rooms where many people were believed to be trapped at the time of the sinking.

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 said they will expand their search radius to 220 kilometers downstream.

President Xi Jinping earlier demanded an "all-out" effort to rescue the passengers.

China's transportation ministry said 456 people were onboard the vessel, including 405 passengers, 46 crew members and five tour guides.

The ship, carrying mostly older tourists between the ages of 50 and 80, was headed from Nanjing to Chongqing city in southwest China.

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

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