Relatives mourn 430 who died on China’s Yangtze

‘I know you will not come back, but I really hope I could see you one last time’, one of 14 survivors says of his wife as ships’ horns sound

Relatives of the victims of the capsized Eastern Star cruise ship mourn at the bank of the Yangtze river in  central China’s Hubei Province on Sunday. Meanwhile, specialists began working on DNA samples from relatives to identify the dead. Photograph: Yu Guoqing/Xinhua via AP

Relatives of the victims of the capsized Eastern Star cruise ship mourn at the bank of the Yangtze river in central China’s Hubei Province on Sunday. Meanwhile, specialists began working on DNA samples from relatives to identify the dead. Photograph: Yu Guoqing/Xinhua via AP

 

Ships’ horns sounded and hundreds of rescue workers bowed their heads and paused for three minutes of silence for the 430 who perished on the Eastern Star cruise ship , which capsized during a storm on the Yangtze river one week ago.

According to Chinese tradition, the seventh day is a key occasion to mourn the passing of the dead. Eleven of the passengers, who were mostly retirees on the holiday of a lifetime, were still missing.

“We are all here with families of victims to go through the pain of losing their loved ones with them,” rescue diver Guan Dong told the Xinhua news agency.

Only 14 survivors, including the captain, were found. The four-storey ship was righted and brought up on Friday, its roof badly damaged, and rescuers were able to speed up the grisly search for bodies. A three-year-old girl was among the bodies found over the weekend.

Xinhua quoted Guan Yuan, the daughter of a couple who died in the tragedy. She held a picture of her parents, who were on their first trip since their retirement.

“My parents rarely travelled to save money for my education,” she said. “I wish this was a nightmare, but nothing happens when I wake up.”

One survivor, Wu Jianqiang (58), lost his wife.

“I know you will not come back, but I really hope I could see you one last time,” he said as the ships sounded their horns.

More than 1,400 relatives travelled to the town of Jianli, and there have been clashes between them and rescue workers over the lack of information and the apparent slow pace of the mission.

One relative was whisked off after publicly accusing the government of treating its people like enemies.

The kindness of the people of Jianli, who provided accommodation and transport and other forms of help for relatives, rescue workers and even media, is one positive of a grim story.

Tornado testimony

Police have detained the captain and chief engineer for questioning. An initial investigation found the ship was not overloaded and had enough life-jackets on board.

The tragedy is now China’s worst shipping catastrophe in seven decades. It caused a higher toll than the sinking of a ferry in South Korea in April 2014 that killed 304 people.

Chinese vice-premier Ma Kai, who was representing the government at the scene, said that whatever help relatives might need, including psychological counselling , should be provided as soon as possible.

– (Additional reporting: Reuters)