Search teams have managed to recover 434 bodies from the cruiser that capsized in the Yangtze River during last week’s storm. Eight passengers are still being reported as missing.
On Friday, the Eastern Star was righted and raised thus rescuers were able to get onboard the vessel to clear away debris, break down cabin doors etc. to search for passenger bodies. A video released by the Guardian displays how rescue teams used circular saws for cutting through muddy mangled metal in the hull as the personal belongings of the passengers lied strewn around.
The rescue and recovery procedures have been carried out with the help of approximately 150 other vessels, 1,700 paramilitary personnel, 3, 400 Chinese troops and 59 machines.
The appointed officials have decided to expand their current search area and include over 600 miles downstream and have also issued warning to other passing ships to be on the look-out for floating bodies.
The youngest passenger aboard the cruiser was three years of age but the larger part of the 405 passengers were in the 50-80-year age range. There were also 5 travel agency workers and 46 crewmen aboard. All of the people onboard the vessel have been reported to be Chinese.
According to the China Meteorological Center there was a tornado with a diameter of less than one kilometer that lasted 15-20 minutes.
The storm’s unexpected nature could possibly be the reason explaining why there was no distress call issued, as well as the small number of survivors given that there was a lifejacket for every single passenger onboard.
Some have voiced their questions regarding the ship sailing despite regional authorities issuing numerous weather warnings for Jingzhou and Hubei. As of the moment it remains unclear on whether or not the captain received the said warnings.
The ship’s operator has issued an apology for the disaster and commented that it will be fully committed to helping and cooperating with the subsequent investigation. Beijing has pledged that there isn’t going to be any cover-up of the incident.
Police officials have detained the vessel’s captain and chief engineer for the purposes of questioning. Initial results show that the ship was not overloaded.
Zhang Shunwen, the ship’s captain and Yang Zhongquan, respectively the chief engineer reported the vessel as getting caught in a severe storm, and one passenger even described the ship tilting at an angle of 45 degrees before capsizing.
Zhang reportedly said that the vessel overturned in merely one or two minutes.
“China has one definite rule and it tends to be especially strict when regarding it – the vessel’s captain is to be the last person to leave it. If he does not comply with the rule, he is to serve time,” commented James Hu, a Shanghai Maritime University professor and a maritime law expert.
As of the moment there is no evidence, however, that the captain neglected the said rule.