06 Juni 2015

[060615.EN.SEA] Yangtze Ship Disaster: Chinese Salvagers Right Eastern Star

Chinese salvagers have fully righted the ship which capsized on the Yangtze River, on which more than 400 people are thought to have died.

The Eastern Star overturned late on Monday after being caught in a storm.
Just 14 of the 456 passengers and crew are known to have survived what looks set to be China's worst shipping disaster in more than 60 years of Communist rule.

Authorities say the chances of finding anyone still alive were "slim".

"In a situation in which the overall judgment is that there is no chance of people being alive, we could start the work of righting the boat," Transport Ministry Spokesperson Xu Chengguang had told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.

Why did cruise ship capsize?

Rescue workers on the upturned hull, which was just barely visible over the brown waters of the Yangtze, were towered over by two cranes.

An aerial view shows rescue workers standing on the sunken cruise ship Eastern Star in Jianli, Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015.

Only three people have been rescued alive from inside the ship

The Eastern Star on its side in the Yangtze River (5 June 2015)

The ship's name was visible above the water on Friday morning

Rescue workers right the Eastern Star (5 June 2015)

The ship was held in place by cranes as it was turned over

People watch the righting of the cruise ship Dong Fang Zhi Xing which capsized in the Yangtze River in Jianli county, Hubei province, China, 05 June 2015.

The roof of the ship appears to be entirely crushed

Hooks were welded onto the ship and a net stretched around the entire structure in preparation for lifting it.

By first light on Friday, the ship could be seen lying on its side with its name visible just above the water. Xinhua state news agency later tweeted a picture of the righted vessel, its roof apparently crushed.

As the ship is righted, the focus of emergency workers at the site in Jianli, Hubei province will switch from attempting to find survivors to searching the ship's 150 cabins for bodies.

Mr Xu said on Friday that the next step was to raise the ship entirely above the water to conduct the search.

So far 97 bodies have been recovered, some after three holes were cut into the vessel's upturned hull. The holes were later welded closed in order to preserve the ship's buoyancy.

Media caption

Gao Ruihai and his daughter Gao Yuan are struggling to cope with the unknown
Mr Xu said there had been no further signs of life inside the ship, Xinhua news agency reports.

He said officials would "absolutely not cover up anything" in the investigation, state media reports.

Chinese President Xi Jinping promised a thorough investigation into the cause of the disaster, after angry relatives protested at the scene.

Authorities tightly controlled access to the site, leading family members and journalists to complain about a lack of information.

Source : BBC, 05.06.15.

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