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Published on : Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Nearly 430 people have been reported missing and 18 bodies recovered till now after 36 hours as a cruise boat, Eastern Star capsized in the Yangtze River in the Hubei province of China during stormy weather. 456 people were onboard.
Rescue operations are underway. Around 14 people have been rescued so far. Almost thirteen navy divers have been searching the boat looking for people trapped inside. More would be joining the rescue team.
According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Anthony Sagliani, “A stalled frontal boundary nearby at the time of the accident was causing numerous thunderstorms with gusty winds in the area.”
Adverse weather is hampering search operations. The depth of the water is at 15 meters (50 feet) and is causing a lot of inconvenience for the rescue team.
Strong winds will continue to affect the region over the next 24-36 hours making rescue work even more challenging as additional showers and thunderstorm will continue because of the stalled frontal boundary.
Many elderly tourists have been unaccounted for. The shallow-draft, multi-decked Eastern Star was traveling upstream on Monday night from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it overturned in China’s Hubei Province due to cyclonic winds of up to 80 mph (130 kph).
People were screaming for help within the overturned hull. The site has been cordoned off by police and paramilitary troops. At least two ambulances were seeing leaving the area with their lights on and sirens blaring.
Among the survivors are the ship’s captain and chief engineer, both of whom were taken into police custody. There are questions being raised by the relatives of the tourists on whether the captain did enough to ensure the safety of his passengers.
There are discrepancies on the number of passengers on board. CCTV footage suggests that the Eastern Star was carrying 405 Chinese passengers. According to a local media most passengers were between the ages of 50 to 80 years old.
Some survivors managed to swim ashore and the rest were rescued during search operations. The group of travellers consisted of a dozen retirees from a Shanghai. This group was used to taking a lot of short trips in the past.
The Eastern Star was 251 feet (76.5 meters) long and 36 feet (11 meters) wide, and could carry a maximum of 534 people. The ship is owned by the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corp., which focuses on tourism routes in the popular Three Gorges river canyon region.