A cruise ship carrying 458 people coming back from a trip capsized on the Yangtze River in China’s Hubei province. The death toll is at five but hundreds more are missing.
The ship, which has not completely sunk, is floating upside down in a big part of the river, state media said. Rescuers who showed up to the scene tapped on the hull and heard calls for help from the people trapped inside.
The boat, which goes by the name of Eastern Star, sent no emergency signals when the tragedy happened. Media reports say that authorities were alerted when those who managed to escape and got to the shore, told them of the situation.
The cruise ship was carrying elderly tourists from ages around 50 to 80, travelling from the eastern city of Nanjing to Chongqing. The long journey took a turn for the worse as they are now trapped, waiting for rescuers to make their way in before the boat sinks.
Rescue teams have not had it easy, their efforts have been slowed down by strong winds and rain. Authorities have only rescued 12 people so far and most have been taken to the hospital with minor injuries, said state media. The BBC’s Jo Floto in Beijing says that the country has not seen a disaster like this in quite some time.
He also added that the government is preventing reporters and media from getting close to the scene, which makes it even harder to know about the current situation of those trapped.
Captain Says It Was a Cyclone
The country has sent thousands of soldiers and rescue teams to the area, and a ship is on the way to flip the boat back up, reported China Central Television (CCTV). The first news of the incident said that divers knocked on the hull underwater and heard cries of help from those trapped inside. Rescuers later got to contact those trapped above water.
Between those rescued, are the captain and chief engineer, who were found waiting in the water after an hour had gone by, the two have been detained and will be questioned about the incident soon.They say the boat was caught in a cyclone and flipped upside down in just minutes, many of the people travelling in the cruise ship were caught off guard because they were asleep at the time.
Premier Li Keqiang, who is travelling to the area where the tragedy took place, has ordered a team from the state council to lead rescue efforts, said Xinhua. President Xi Jinping has also taken action and ordered many rescue teams to the area.
Eastern Star, was carrying 406 passengers, 47 crew members and five members of the travel agency that owns the boat. The big ship weighs 2,200 tons and has a maximum capacity of 534. The tragedy occurred in the Damazhou section of the Yangtze in Jianli county, Hubei, at around 21:30 local time on Monday evening. The water in that part of the river is about 50 feet deep. It took the rescue teams at least two and a half hours to get to where the boat capsized.
The ship is owned by the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation, which takes travelers to many scenic places around the country.
Family members of those trapped have gathered outside of the company’s office to get the latest update on the situation, but the door remains shut. Relatives have tried to call their loved ones but to no avail. One of the first to get to the company’s office was a young man, who sat in front of the door sobbing and saying: “Mum and Dad I was wrong, I shouldn’t have let you go off on your holiday.”
Other people wait as the hours go by without the company answering to the questions made by the relatives. “Why did the captain leave the ship while the passengers were still missing?” she asked reporters, adding: “We want the government to release the name list to see who was on the boat.”