Rescue hopes fade for hundreds missing from China ship
Relatives of more than 400 people missing from a cruise ship which capsized in central China clashed with police on Wednesday as hope that survivors would be found turned to anger at a lack of new information.
Just 14 people have been rescued from the “Eastern Star” which overturned late Monday in a storm leaving only a section of its hull emerging from the Yangtze River, state-media said.
While 26 bodies have been found so far, according to state broadcaster CCTV, hundreds of mostly elderly passengers are still missing and feared possibly trapped within the ship.
Witnesses and state-media said the cruiseliner — which was carrying a total of 456 people, most aged over 60 on a holiday cruise — sank in a matter of seconds after it was hit by bad weather.
Around 20 bodies appeared to have been found on Wednesday as rescue efforts continued more than 40 hours after the accident, with dozens of divers searching each of the ship’s rooms one by one, CCTV said.
Fields around the site of the capsized boat were heavily waterlogged and many of the pathways being used by rescue workers were ankle-deep in mud and rainwater.
A transport ministry spokesman told AFP that rescuers were facing low visibility in the muddy waters, but would keep searching even as hopes of finding survivors dwindled.
“We will never give up our last efforts,” Xu Chengguang said.
Information on the disaster has been tightly controlled and officials gave little away during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, providing no figures on deaths or survivors and taking no questions.
Anger at the lack of news boiled over outside local government building in China’s commercial hub of Shanghai, where many of the passengers hailed from, where a video shared on social media showed pushing and shoving between police and angry relatives.
“The police first formed a human wall and didn’t let us in. Then the relatives got excited and started to shout. Some policemen hit people,” said one young woman whose mother was on the boat.
The mother of 7-year-old Yang Chenlin who was on the boat with her grandparents, said relatives were desperate for more information. “We need to go to the site. That’s our common appeal,” she said.
Tight Media Control
At the Jianli County People’s Hospital, frantic relatives arrived searching for missing loved ones.
“We drove from 10 p.m. last night to 6 a.m. this morning to get here,” a woman who looked pale and warn told AFP at the hospital, adding that her uncle and aunt had been on board.
“We don’t really know anything,” said a man who had traveled with her.
Hospital officials by late Wednesday had sealed off the facility from reporters, along with a local funeral parlor.
China tightly controls its domestic media and a government directive posted online by the U.S.-based China Digital Times said local outlets had been ordered to only use reports from state-media.
A relative of passengers onboard the sunken vessel Dongfangzhixing or “Eastern Star,” is comforted as people gather in a temporary reception center in Shanghai on Wednesday, June 3.