Res­cue hopes fade for hun­dreds miss­ing from China ship

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY NEIL CON­NOR

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.

AFP

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.

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