At least five people have died and hundreds more are missing after a cruise ship capsized and sank on the Yangtze River in China’s Hubei province.
The Yangtze has a special place in Chinese hearts and history. It’s the country’s best-loved river, highly popular with tourists and famed for its spectacular Three Gorges Dam.
The stricken ship, the Eastern Star, was carrying 458 people, according to reports from the BBC last night.
It apparently sent no emergency signal and no alarm was raised till a few passengers managed to swim ashore. Most passengers were middle-aged and elderly Chinese domestic tourists travelling from the eastern city of Nanjing to Chongqing about 1500km away.
Officials yesterday said 14 people had been rescued, with some found trapped but still alive inside the upturned hull of the vessel, the BBC reported.
The report said that police detained two prominent survivors – the ship’s captain and chief engineer.
According to Chinese media, the two men say the boat was caught in a cyclone and sank within minutes while most passengers slept. Severe thunderstorms were reported in the area.
Later reports described Eastern Star as a 2200-ton vessel, 76 metres in length, built to carry up to 534 people. It went down with 406 Chinese passengers aboard, five “travel agency employees” (most likely tour group guides and tour organisers) and a crew of 47.
Written by Peter Needham