More than 400 confirmed dead in China cruise disaster

Eleven still missing, commemoration ceremony held for victims on Yangtze River

 

More than 400 people have been confirmed dead after a boat capsized on the Yangtze River in China on Monday.

The toll from last Monday’s overturning of the Eastern Star cruise ship rose to 431 dead with 11 people still missing, said Hu Kaihong, the vice director-general of the press bureau of the State Council Information Office.

Fourteen people survived, including three pulled by divers from the overturned hull on Tuesday.

After the ship was pulled upright by cranes and thoroughly checked by Saturday, the search for additional bodies turned to the river downstream, Mr Hu said.

Authorities planned to expand the search from the Hubei province disaster site to as far east as Shanghai, more than 1,000 km away.

Forensic teams were using DNA matching to identify the remains, but have not said how long the process would take.

Ceremony

On Sunday, nearby ships blared horns for three minutes and rescuers bowed in silence to commemorate the victims.

Transport minister Yang Chuantang presided over the ceremony on the deck of a ship next to the Eastern Star, saying: “please observe silence”.

Hundreds of members of the military, police and others took off their hats and bowed as vessels blared their horns. State broadcaster CCTV showed some relatives also bowing as they watched the event on television from where they were staying in nearby Jianli county.

On Saturday night, relatives were taken by bus to an area just upriver of the ship, where they burned incense and tossed flowers into the Yangtze in memory of the dead.

Authorities have attributed the overturning of the cruise ship late last Monday to a freak storm with tornado-like winds, but also have placed the surviving captain and his first engineer in police custody.

The boat had 456 people aboard, many of them elderly tourists.

Passengers’ relatives have raised questions about whether the ship should have continued its voyage after the storm started in a section of Hubei province and despite a weather warning earlier in the evening.

The Eastern Star disaster is the country’s worst since the sinking of the SS Kiangya off Shanghai in 1948, which is believed to have killed between 2,750 and 4,000 people.

PA