More Than 410 Still Missing After Eastern Star Cruise Ship Capsizes
PHOTO: Rescue workers cut a hole in the bottom of the capsized Eastern Star. (Photo via Twitter)
Ongoing rescue and recovery efforts have been ramped up in China's Yangtze River following Monday's capsizing of the Eastern Star river cruise ship in the country's Hubei province.
According to the Associated Press, more than 410 people remain unaccounted for and are believed to be trapped inside the overturned vessel. Many of the missing passengers are in their 60s and 70s.
The AP reports that more than 180 rescue divers have been called on to search below the river's surface. "Until all hope is lost and more accurate information becomes available, we will not give up on our final efforts, although I know that our colleagues at the scene are facing a great many difficulties," Transport Ministry spokesman Xu Chengguang told reporters via the AP.
So far, rescuers have pulled 26 bodies from the ship, while the survivor count stands at 14.
Two of the survivors, the ship's captain and chief engineer, have been detained, but report that the Eastern Star was struck by a cyclone right before it capsized around 9:30 p.m. local time on Monday.
Chinese weather authorities reported the cyclone packed winds as strong as 80 mph.
"The river ships tend to have a lower standard on wind-resistance and wave-resistance than ocean ships," said Chongqing Boat Design Institute president Zhong Shoudao at a news conference via the AP. "Under the special circumstance of cyclone, the pressure on the one side of the boat went beyond the standard it was designed for, resulting in the overturning of the boat."
Given how quickly the ship overturned, people on board had little time to react.
Despite these factors, the ship's spotty safety record is likely to become a point of emphasis in the investigation into the incident. According to the AP, a Chinese maritime agency's records show that the Eastern Star was cited for safety violations as recently as two years ago.
The ship was held by authorities following a violation of safety standards during a 2013 inspection. However, details of the violations remain unclear.
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