396 Bodies: Death Toll From Capsized Chinese Cruise Soars

The wreck of the Eastern Star as seen on Friday, after it was rights and lifted mostly out of the water. Aly Song / Reuters

What We Know So Far

  • A cruise ship carrying more than 450 people capsized in China’s Yangtze River in Hubei province on Monday.
  • Only 14 people have been rescued. The death toll stood at 331 people as of early Saturday, according to Chinese state media.
  • By Friday, authorities said there were no more signs of life after crews righted the capsized ship.
  • The ship’s captain and chief engineer survived the wreck and have been detained for questioning.

Reuters

Updates

Posted at 8:42 a.m., Jun. 6

By mid Saturday morning, the number of dead from the Eastern Star cruise ship had climbed to 331.

Chinese state media initially reported that the death toll stood at 345, but later updated the number to 331. More than 450 people had been on the ship, and 14 were rescued.

Rescue workers stand on the river bank as the capsized cruise ship Eastern Star is pulled out of the Yangtze Friday. China Daily China Daily Infor / Reuters

Posted at 6:54 a.m., Jun. 6

The death toll from the Eastern Star cruise ship rose to 154 people Saturday, China’s CCTV News announced.

Crews managed to right the overturned ship Friday, allowing searchers to access more of the wreck.

Rescue workers rest near bodies retrieved from the cruise ship Eastern Star Friday. Aly Song / Reuters

In addition to retrieving more bodies, crews also spent Friday raising the previously capsized ship out of the water. According to CNN, the goal is to drain the ship so that it will hopefully be able to float again.

A rescue team works on lifting the capsized cruise ship Eastern Star in the Jianli section of Yangtze River Friday. Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters

Posted at 11:31 a.m., Jun. 5

Authorities recovered 25 more bodies from the wreck of the Eastern Star cruise ship, bringing the total to 97.

China’s CCTV tweeted Friday that the bodies had been recovered. A total of 330 people are still unaccounted for.

Cranes work on righting the capsized Eastern Star cruise ship on Friday. China Stringer Network / Reuters

Crews finished righting the ship Friday, and the next step was to drain water from the hull. Searchers also were working Friday to locate bodies, the Associated Press reported.

Rescuers look on as cranes work on righting the capsized Eastern Star cruise ship Friday. China Stringer Network / Reuters

The operation to right the ship involved divers putting bars underneath the hull. A pair of cranes then lifted the bars, rotating the ship into an upright position, the AP reported.

The operation followed an ultimately failed attempt Thursday to find more survivors by cutting holes in the hull.

Posted at 9:27 a.m., Jun. 5

Crews lifted the capsized Eastern Star early Friday.

Authorities are expected to begin search the ship’s cabins for bodies, the BBC reported. As of Thursday night, rescuers saw no signs of life from the ship.

Meanwhile, 82 bodies had been recovered, Reuters reported. The number of survivors remained at 14, and more than 350 people remained unaccounted for.

Posted at 12:03 a.m., Jun. 5

Chinese rescue officials are working to turn the capsized cruise ship and return it to an upright position, a spokesman for the transportation ministry said.

The operation began at 8 a.m. ET and Xu Chengguang, Ministry of Transport spokesman said this will allow the rescuers to “search for the missing persons in the shortest possible time and give maximum protection to the dignity of the deceased,”Reuters reported.

Posted at 7:01 p.m., Jun. 4

The death toll for Monday’s Yangtze River ferry disaster rose to 75 on Thursday morning as rescuers cut three holes in the vessel in an unsuccessful bid to find more survivors, AP reported.

The death toll for Monday's Yangtze River ferry disaster rose to 75 on Thursday morning as rescuers cut three holes in the vessel in an unsuccessful bid to find more survivors, AP reported.

Aly Song / Reuters

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said the ship was stabilized by workers with cranes, who then cut into the vessel’s hull. They then checked for survivors, before welding the sections back on the ship to preserve buoyancy.

Some 200 rescue workers were working in three shifts to individually search each of the the ship’s submerged cabins for survivors, CCTV said.

Despite the chance of finding survivors having significantly diminished with time, officials have yet to declare the search over, AP said.

Posted at 6:40 p.m., Jun. 4

Family members of passengers of the cruise ship which sunk in the Yangtze River on Monday have traveled to the site of the disaster to protest the scarcity of information provided to them by authorities, Reuters reported.

Family members of passengers of the cruise ship which sunk in the Yangtze River on Monday have traveled to the site of the disaster to protest the scarcity of information provided to them by authorities, Reuters reported.

Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters

Some 80 people hired a bus for the eight-hour journey from Nanjing to Jianli county in Hubei in order to demand information on their missing relatives from officials in person. When they arrived late Wednesday night, they began marching towards the site of the rescue operation.

The protest’s organizer, Wang Feng, told Reuters, “This isn’t going to be much use, we’re just doing this for the government to see.”

Later, a number of protesters broke through a cordon of around 20 to 25 police officers who had tried to prevent them from going through a roadblock, Reuters said.

Later, a number of protesters broke through a cordon of around 20 to 25 police officers who had tried to prevent them from going through a roadblock, Reuters said.

Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters

The deputy police chief of Jiangsu province told the relatives early on Thursday that they would not be allowed to visit the disaster site at night time, and that buses would be arranged to take them there in the morning. He added that journalists would be barred from visiting the area.

Posted at 9:15 a.m., Jun. 4

Authorities have found another 39 bodies in the Yangtze River where a ship capsized Monday night, bringing the death toll to 65, state-run broadcaster CCTV News reported.

More than 450 people were on board the ship when it capsized amid a powerful storm.

CCTV News reported that only 14 people had been rescued as of Tuesday night, even as crews tried to cut through the hull of the overturned ship in search for possible survivors trapped inside.

Posted at 1:21 a.m., Jun. 4

China’s People’s Daily newspaper reported on Weibo that three bodies have been pulled from the ship after rescue workers earlier cut a hole in the hull.

China's People's Daily newspaper reported on Weibo that three bodies have been pulled from the ship after rescue workers earlier cut a hole in the hull.

weibo.com

Posted at 11:21 p.m., Jun. 3

Rescue workers began cutting a hole into the hull of the overturned ship late Wednesday, according to images shared by state media.

Li Qixiu of China’s Naval University of Engineering told China Daily the hull would be lifted with steel cables, which are visible below.

“The ship sank in a very short time frame, so there could still be air trapped in the hull,” Li said, “and that means there could still be survivors.”

If the cables don’t hold, or any air in the hull escapes, the vessel may sink further, Li warned.

Posted at 10:53 a.m., Jun. 2

Rescuers help lift a survivor from the capsized cruise ship on the Yangtze River on Tuesday. Chinatopix via AP

Frantic efforts to reach more than 400 passengers feared trapped inside a cruise ship that capsized Monday night on the Yangtze River in China took a grim turn as more bodies were pulled from the water.

As of Wednesday morning — roughly 36 hours after the Eastern Star capsized in about 50 feet of water — by Wednesday the death toll had risen to 26, with just 14 others rescued, state-run broadcaster CCTV reported.

The Chinese Ministry of Transport said there were 456 people onboard, including 405 passengers, 46 crew and five tour guides. Many of the passengers were described as being between the ages of 40 and 80.

With hope of finding more survivors fading with the passing hours, despondent family members who had descended on the area awaited anxiously for any scrap of news.

“I only found out about this on the news while I was at work,” said Wang Sheng, who told reporters his parents were on board. “I cried all the way here and here I can’t find anyone, the door is locked.”

Chinatopix via AP

Rescue workers stand on the capsized ship, center, on the Yangtze River in central China’s Hubei province on June 2.

Bad weather, strong river currents, and poor visibility were hampering rescuers, who had reported hearing knocking and yelling from inside the hull hours after the ship capsized around 9:30 p.m. Monday local time.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who arrived at the site in Hubei province the next day, has ordered an all-out rescue effort in response, with more than 170 divers scouring the river, the AP reported.

In all, more than 50 boats and 3,000 people were involved in the search Wednesday morning, according to the AP.

“We will do everything we can to rescue everyone trapped in there, no matter they’re still alive or not, and we will treat them as our own families,” Chen Shoumin, a regional military commander, said at a news conference, according to the Associated Press.

Associated Press

The Eastern Star capsized in the Damazhou waterway amid a violent storm that was described as possible cyclone. The Communist Party–run People’s Daily reported that the ship sank quickly after capsizing, leaving the captain no time to send a distress signal.

A handful of people on the boat, including the captain, were able to grab life vests and jump into the storm-churned water, alerting authorities of the disaster after making it to shore. The ship’s captain and chief engineer were later detained by police for questioning, state-run media reported.

Footage aired Tuesday by CCTV showed rescue workers on the hull of the four-story ship, one of them tapping it with a hammer, his ear pressed to the wall as he listened for a response.

The ship had reportedly floated a short distance since sinking, mean air had likely become trapped inside, providing buoyancy and giving passengers a chance, officials said. Those hopes were energized Tuesday after crews cut into the hull and, live on state TV, pulled a 65-year-old woman from an air pocket . She was reportedly in fair condition and able to talk.

A 21-year-old man who was found trapped in a small compartment was also rescued after he was able to swim out using a diving apparatus he was given.

But as the hours passed and the death toll continued to grow, frustrated family members started asking questions, particularly since the captain had managed to escape with so few of his passengers, many of whom were described as retirees.

“Why did the captain leave the ship while the passengers were still missing?” one woman, identified by the BBC as Huang Yan, asked reporters at a local hotel where family members had amassed while waiting for news.

For his part, Li pledged that government would carry out a transparent investigation into how the ship capsized.

According to CCTV, the Eastern Star is 251 feet long with a maximum capacity of 534 people.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.‏

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