More than 430 peo­ple are still be­lieved to be trapped in a ship that cap­sized in a storm.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Julie Maki­nen and Jonathan Kaiman julie.maki­nen@la­ jonathan.kaiman@la­ Maki­nen re­ported from Bei­jing and Kaiman from Bangkok, Thai­land. Ni­cole Liu in The Times’ Bei­jing bureau con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Res­cuers work on the cruise ship that cap­sized on the Yangtze River. More than 430 peo­ple re­mained miss­ing a day af­ter the boat was caught in a storm. The cap­tain and chief en­gi­neer were in cus­tody.

BEI­JING — With hope fad­ing Wed­nes­day for find­ing sur­vivors of a cap­sized cruise ship on the Yangtze River, Chi­nese res­cue work­ers were de­vis­ing plans to lift the boat out of the wa­ter and ei­ther cut into the hull or try to right the ves­sel.

Heavy rain overnight ham­pered ef­forts to lo­cate sur­vivors among the more than 430 peo­ple still be­lieved to be trapped in the ship, which went down Mon­day night amid bad weather.

More than 200 divers were par­tic­i­pat­ing in the search, and as of Wed­nes­day morn­ing, only 14 of the 456 peo­ple aboard were known to have sur­vived; five were con­firmed dead. Twelve of the sur­vivors were res­cued from the wa­ter, and two were pulled from the hull.

Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties were strictly lim­it­ing me­dia ac­cess to the site of the sub­merged ship, with only re­porters from the state-run New China News Agency and state-run CCTV al­lowed any­where near the res­cue op­er­a­tions. A team of 4,000, in­clud­ing po­lice of­fi­cers, fire­fight­ers and sol­diers, was said to be in­volved in the res­cue mission.

Mean­while, dis­traught fam­i­lies gath­ered at a tour agency in Shang­hai that had ar­ranged trips for some of those on board, seek­ing in­for­ma­tion about their rel­a­tives. Sev­eral raised ques­tions about why the ves­sel was sail­ing in such in­clement weather, and why the cap­tain failed to is­sue a dis­tress sig­nal but man­aged to swim to safety.

With no sur­vivors found since Tues­day af­ter­noon, the death toll looked likely to sur­pass last year’s ferry dis­as­ter in South Korea that killed 304 peo­ple.

The ship, called the Dong­fangzhix­ing, or Eastern Star, was trav­el­ing on a 930-mile route from the eastern city of Nan­jing to the south­ern me­trop­o­lis of Chongqing when it sank about 9:30 p.m. Mon­day. State-run me­dia ini­tially said the ship was car­ry­ing 458 peo­ple: 406 pas­sen­gers, five tour guides and 47 crew mem­bers.

Most of the pas­sen­gers were tourists be­tween the ages of 50 and 80, although there was one as young as 3.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the lo­cal gov­ern­ment, crew mem­bers called for help about 11:50 p.m. af­ter swim­ming to shore, more than two hours af­ter the boat sank. State me­dia did not ex­plain the de­lay.

Zhang Hui spent the night drift­ing in the river be­fore he was found Tues­day. Many of the pas­sen­gers had al­ready gone to bed when rain be­gan pour­ing down and light­ning streaked across the sky, the 43-yearold tour guide said in an in­ter­view with the state-run news agency.

As the ship started list­ing in the storm, Zhang grabbed a life jacket but had no time to put it on be­fore the ves­sel cap­sized. He can’t swim, so he clutched the jacket to stay afloat, he said.

At first, he could see about a dozen peo­ple in the river yelling for help. But as the hours passed, the voices faded away.

“The rain­drops hit­ting my face felt like hail­stones,” he re­called. “Just hang in there a lit­tle longer, I told my­self.”

As dawn ap­proached, Zhang saw land and was able to drag him­self ashore, where he was found and taken to hos­pi­tal.

“Life jack­ets are ac­ces­si­ble in all of the cruise’s cab­ins. If it had not hap­pened so fast, a lot of peo­ple could’ve been saved,” a sob­bing Zhang said from his hos­pi­tal bed.

At Xiehe Travel, the Shang­hai tour agency that han­dled some of the cruise bookings, a com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tive con­tacted by the Los An­ge­les Times re­fused to com­ment on the in­ci­dent.

“I’m very, very sad,” said Qu Qing, a woman from Changzhou city, in Jiangsu prov­ince, who had six fam­ily mem­bers on board, all in their 60s and 70s. “My fa­ther, his three younger sis­ters and one younger brother [and] my mother boarded on May 28 in Nan­jing. They saw a travel ad in the lo­cal news­pa­per, then they con­tacted the travel agency and went. My fa­ther was so happy.

“We can’t ac­cept this as re­al­ity,” she con­tin­ued, sob­bing. “All of our rel­a­tives are try­ing to find in­for­ma­tion on the In­ter­net. We learned that the au­thor­i­ties in Nan­jing and Shang­hai were con­sol­ing the fam­i­lies, so I went with my un­cle and my un­cle-in-law … to the Changzhou Tourism Bureau, but we were treated ter­ri­bly. We had to take in­stant car­dio-re­liever pills to pull through it.”

The ship’s cap­tain and chief en­gi­neer, both of whom made it to shore, said the ves­sel sank quickly af­ter get­ting caught in a cy­clone, ac­cord­ing to the news agency. Both were taken into po­lice cus­tody.

The sink­ing hap­pened in the Da­mazhou wa­ter­way sec­tion of the Yangtze, the world’s third-long­est river. The sec­tion has a depth of about 50 feet, ac­cord­ing to the news agency, and in pic- tures posted on­line, the hull was vis­i­ble just above the wa­ter’s sur­face.

Ac­cord­ing to state me­dia, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping “is­sued im­por­tant in­struc­tions im­me­di­ately,” dis­patch­ing a ma­jor search-and-res­cue ef­fort to the scene in Hubei prov­ince. Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang ar­rived there by mid­day Tues­day, ob­served the res­cue ef­fort from a boat and vis­ited sur­vivors who were hos­pi­tal­ized.

The ship was owned by the state-run Chongqing Eastern Ship­ping Corp. Res­cuers told the New China News Agency that it was “not over­loaded” and was “equipped with suf­fi­cient life jack­ets” when it sank. “Our bosses have gone to the site,” said a Chongqing Eastern em­ployee reached by phone Tues­day. “But the place is sealed, so we don’t have any up­dates yet. Right now our su­pe­ri­ors are try­ing to con­sole the crew’s fam­ily mem­bers.”

The em­ployee, who said he worked in the com­pany’s fi­nance depart­ment, de­clined to give his name.

The Peo­ple’s Daily, a Com­mu­nist Party mouth­piece, said the ship went down in about two min­utes amid 40-mph winds and drifted for about two miles be­fore com­ing to a rest.

The news por­tal Sina com­piled a short miss­ing­per­sons re­port Tues­day.



RES­CUERS are de­ployed to the cap­sized cruise ship on the Yangtze River in China’s Hubei prov­ince as part of the search ef­fort. If the boat had not cap­sized so swiftly, “a lot of peo­ple could’ve been saved,” one sur­vivor said.

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