China Brings 14 Times More Divers to Capsized Ship

Hundreds of rescuers searching Yangtze River site
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 3, 2015 4:15 AM CDT
Updated Jun 3, 2015 6:37 AM CDT
Hopes Fade for 400 Trapped on Ship
Rescue workers gather on the hull of the capsized cruise ship, center, on the Yangtze River in central China's Hubei province today.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Chinese authorities escalated efforts to recover more than 410 people believed to be trapped inside an overturned river cruise ship today, deploying scores more divers and a large crane to possibly lift the craft. The squad of 13 navy divers who searched the multi-decked Eastern Star in the Yangtze River yesterday—and pulled out three trapped survivors from air pockets after voices were heard through the hull—was expanded today to more than 180, airlifted from the provincial capital of Wuhan and from as far away as Guangzhou. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said rescuers were deciding today whether to cut into the overturned hull—an option that would imply hopes still lingered for finding more survivors trapped in air pockets—or to right the ship by bringing two salvage ships to the stern and bow to act as a vise to keep the craft in place while a crane pulls it back into an upright position.

CCTV said 14 people had survived, some of them by swimming ashore. But with 26 confirmed dead and more than 410 still missing, the Eastern Star disaster could become China's deadliest since the sinking of the SS Kiangya off Shanghai in December 1948, which is believed to have killed anywhere from 2,750 to nearly 4,000 people. Many Eastern Star passengers were elderly tourists taking in the scenic vistas of the Yangtze on a cruise from Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing. The shallow-draft boat, which was not designed to withstand as heavy winds as an oceangoing vessel can, overturned in what Chinese weather authorities have called a cyclone with winds up to 80mph. The ship's captain and chief engineer survived and have been detained. (More China stories.)

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