Fi­nal death toll from sunken PRC cruise ship 442

The China Post - - BUSINESS -

The death toll from a cruise ship which sank on China’s Yangtze river was con­firmed as 442 on Satur­day, state me­dia re­ported, as the fi­nal bod­ies were found from the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China’s ( PRC) worst ship­ping dis­as­ter.

Only 12 peo­ple sur­vived when the “Eastern Star” cruise ship cap­sized dur­ing a storm on June 1, Tang Guan­jun, the direc­tor of the river’s nav­i­ga­tion author­ity, was quoted as say­ing by Xin­hua news agency.

All of the dead have now been iden­ti­fied us­ing DNA testing and the bod­ies have been trans­ferred to rel­a­tives, he said. So far 426 bod­ies have been cre­mated, in line with Chi­nese cus­tom.

A to­tal of 454 peo­ple, mainly tourists in their 60s, were on the ship when it sank in Jianli in China’s cen­tral Hubei prov­ince in what wit­nesses said was a mat­ter of sec­onds. Weather of­fi­cials said a freak tor­nado hit the area at the time.

Tang said ear­lier re­ports that 14 peo­ple had sur­vived out of 456 had been re­vised af­ter “fur­ther check- ups and ver­i­fi­ca­tions,” Xin­hua re­ported.

The fi­nal toll comes af­ter search and res­cue per­son­nel last week held a solemn cer­e­mony for the dead af­ter dis­traught rel­a­tives from across China gath­ered near the dis­as­ter site.

In­for­ma­tion about the sink­ing, and me­dia ac­cess to the site and to rel­a­tives of pas­sen­gers, has been tightly con­trolled and on­line crit­i­cism of the search quickly deleted.

Teams scoured the sunken ship for days, go­ing room to room un­der­wa­ter be­fore fi­nally lift­ing the body of the ves­sel from the wa­ter us­ing vast cranes, but poor weather and visibility ham­pered res­cue ef­forts.

The search scope was also ex­tended to 1,300 kilo­me­ters ( 800 miles) of the Yangtze, Asia’s long­est river, in the hope of find­ing those still un­ac­counted for.

Search and res­cue op­er­a­tions have now been ended but an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the sink­ing is still un­der­way, Tang was quoted as say­ing by Xin­hua.

A pe­ti­tion posted by fam­ily mem­bers on the so­cial me­dia ser­vice WeChat has called for the death penalty for the ship’s cap­tain — one of the few sur­vivors of the dis­as­ter — who is in po­lice cus­tody.

The sink­ing was the PRC’s worst ship­ping dis­as­ter since the Com­mu­nist Party came to power in 1949. In 1948 up to 4,000 on board the SS Kiangya were killed when it sank near Shang­hai.

Re­ports have said the 76.5-me­ter-long and 2,200-tonne ship over­turned in less than a minute.

The ves­sel was cited for safety in­frac­tions two years ago, and state broad­caster CCTV had said in­ves­ti­ga­tors would probe its struc­ture for any flaws.

In op­er­a­tion for nearly 20 years, the ship had un­der­gone an an­nual main­te­nance late last year and was fit to cruise un­til April 2016, Xin­hua said.

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