More than 20 people went missing on Friday after a tugboat sank while on its trial voyage on the Yangtze, the longest river in China, as reported by state media and officials.
The brand new vessel was being tested on Thursday with 25 people aboard, in the eastern province of Jiangsu when the unfortunate accident occurred.
State broadcaster China Central Television has reported that three people were rescued, thus leaving 22 still missing. According to the television report “roughly” eight foreigners were aboard the boat at the time of its sinking.
A spokesperson for the Singapore Foreign Ministry commented to the AFP that the boat, JMS Delta, had been registered in the city-state and four of its nationals were on board.
The Japanese and Indian consulates in Shanghai have each issued a confirmation to the AFP that one of their nationals was among the missing passengers.
According to a microblog posting by a newspaper, that is under China’s Transport Ministry, two of the others on board were from Malaysia and Indonesia.
“The water entered the board cabin in mere moments, no more than 20 seconds and it was completely filled up,” survivor Wang Zhenkai commented to state television from his hospital bed.
Wang was accompanying a Japanese technician who had been appointed to test the vessel’s engine, despite the fact that the ship was build and outfitted in China.
Video: Boat sinks in Yangtze River
A photo taken by states media displayed just the bow and a part of the metal ship’s hull, floating above the water, with a salvage barge alongside.
According to reports, rescue teams have been working on trying to raise the ship while search operations regarding the missing passengers also continue. Xinhua cited rescuers saying that it is very difficult to perform the necessary appropriate actions due to the current being swift and the low water temperatures.
“So long as we have the slimmest of hopes, we will be giving a 100% effort,” Wang Shiming, deputy head of the Jiangsu Maritime Safety Administration, commented for state television.
The accident took place on a stretch along the river between the cities of Jingjiang and Zhangjiagang, which is near Yangtze’s mouth, close to the commercial hub Shanghai.
Authorities said the vessel was undergoing trial testing without having completed the required procedures and without reporting the ship’s condition first, as regulations stipulate.
"The operator should have reported to the responsible government officials for endorsement, but it did no such thing,” Wang commented.