Chinese ship capsized on Yangtze, hundreds missing

By ,   June 2, 2015 ,   Accidents

At least one is confirmed dead and more than 420 people are missing after the Chinese passenger boat Eastern Star sank on Yangtze river, hit by a cyclone. Only about ten people have been rescued so far.

At least 458 passengers and crew were travelling on "Dongfangzhixing" (Eastern Star) ship when it went down at 11 p.m. yesterday night (June 01) not far from Jingzhou city, province of Hubei.

By Tuesday morning, 30 people have been reported rescued, with strong winds and heavy rain hindering the emergency teams.

According to local media, Prime minister of China, Li Keqiang, was heading to the disaster “to lead the rescue effort”. President Xi Jinping ordered “all-out” search and rescue operation.

Eastern Star was travelling from the capital of Jiangsu province, Nanjing, to the south-western Chongqing city, when the accident happened in Damazhou section of Yangtze, Jianli county. 

The water there is about 50 ft (15 m) deep. After encountering extremely bad weather conditions, described by the captain and chief engineer (among the rescued) as a cyclone, the vessel “sank quickly”.

Initial media reports said there were 5 travel agency employees, 47 crew members and 405 Chinese passengers on Eastern Star at the time of incident. Most passengers were between 50 and 80-year-old.

The four-tier Eastern Star was 251 feet long and 36 feet wide, with 534-passenger capacity. Today morning, the wreckage was 15 metres beneath the surface of the Yangtze. Xinhua news agency reported rescuers had heard calls for help from it. 

The boat had not sent out an SOS signal before sinking. Several people had swum to shore and alerted the police, helped by fishermen.

Eastern Star is owned by Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation. The company runs tours to the Three Gorges river canyon area along Yangtze river.

22 people died on the Yangtze in January, when a tugboat capsized near Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu province.