Most ship vic­tims ID’d

Hun­dreds of fam­i­lies are wait­ing to col­lect re­mains from the Chi­nese river dis­as­ter.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Julie Maki­nen julie.maki­nen@la­times.com Twit­ter: @JulieMakLAT Ni­cole Liu in The Times’ Bei­jing bureau con­trib­uted to this re­port.

BEI­JING — Us­ing DNA match­ing, Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties have iden­ti­fied three­quar­ters of the vic­tims of the Eastern Star ship cap­siz­ing, but hun­dreds of fam­i­lies are still wait­ing to re­claim their loved ones’ re­mains 10 days af­ter the dis­as­ter.

On Wed­nes­day, a tug­boat pulled the ship, which was hoisted up­right Fri­day, about six miles up­stream from where it cap­sized in the Yangtze River on June 1 with 456 peo­ple aboard. Just 14 peo­ple, in­clud­ing the cap­tain, sur­vived. Re­mains of all but eight pas­sen­gers have been found.

On Tues­day morn­ing, a body be­lieved to be con­nected to the ship was found 500 miles down­stream in Nan­jing, where the cruise had orig­i­nated.

Of­fi­cials said they moved the ship to calmer wa­ter be­cause the ves­sel, heav­ily dam­aged in the cap­siz­ing, would be un­able to with­stand the strong wind and heavy rain that are com­mon dur­ing the Yangtze’s f lood sea­son if it re­mained at the site of the dis­as­ter. In ad­di­tion, mov­ing the ship would fa­cil­i­tate nav­i­ga­tion on the river, they said.

The re­mains of 330 vic­tims had been iden­ti­fied by Tues­day af­ter­noon, 76 fam­i­lies had been able to view re­mains, and 69 vic­tims had been cre­mated, state-run China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion said Wed­nes­day; each vic­tim’s fam­ily was re­ceiv­ing about $8,000 in ini­tial com­pen­sa­tion un­der or­ders from the State Coun­cil.

Some rel­a­tives were also in­vited Wed­nes­day to claim vic­tims’ be­long­ings at a mor­tu­ary in Jianli county that has been the stag­ing ground for the res­cue-and-- re­cov­ery ef­fort. More than 300 items had been sorted and af­fil­i­ated with par­tic­u­lar vic­tims.

Cui Yuchen, whose mother was on the ship, said by phone Wed­nes­day that she was still wait­ing for news. Her DNA sam­ple was taken over the week­end, and she had heard that other peo­ple from her city of Tian­jin who lost fam­ily mem­bers aboard the boat had been no­ti­fied that iden­ti­fi­ca­tions had been made.

But she was not among them. The wait­ing has been ag­o­niz­ing, she said, and she still has ques­tions about what hap­pened aboard the ship and how the res­cue ef­fort was con­ducted.

On June 2, the day af­ter the cap­siz­ing, two peo­ple were pulled alive from the hull, but no sur­vivors were found af­ter that. Divers probed the hull, but holes were not cut into the ves­sel un­til the fourth day.

“We as the rel­a­tives are not too con­cerned about how we are treated,” she said. “All we care about are the peo­ple in the wa­ter. We are not pro­fes­sion­als, so we don’t dare to ques­tion any­thing, but we won­der if there was a bet­ter and more ef­fi­cient way to res­cue” peo­ple.

“All we want is to find our rel­a­tives as soon as pos­si­ble,” she said, start­ing to cry. “The sooner the bet­ter. I have no ex­trav­a­gant wishes … be­cause we know what the re­sult will be.”

A re­port in the Bei­jing News this week sug­gested that mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the ship may have made it more dif­fi­cult for those aboard to es­cape the dis­as­ter. The re­mod­el­ing re­placed some doors with win­dows, and new fur­ni­ture was not bolted to the f loor, said the re­port, which was later re­moved from the news­pa­per’s web­site, ap­par­ently un­der or­ders from cen­sors.

AFP/Getty Images

FU­NERAL PAR­LOR work­ers in Jianli, China, bow to the re­mains of the vic­tims of the Eastern Star cap­siz­ing. A body be­lieved to be con­nected to the ship was found 500 miles down­stream in Nan­jing on Tues­day.

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