A small cruise ship carrying no less than 450 people, many of them senior citizens, capsized in the Yangtze River during a violent storm, later confirmed to be a tornado, in Hubei province, southern China. The boat was traveling from Nanjing to the city of Chongqing.
The special forces are making desperate efforts to find anybody who might have survived. Aproximately 1000 police officers were sent to the tragedy site immediately. They went in with 40 inflatable boats, military trucks and other special equipment. Sadly, their rescue work is hampered by the low visibility due to fog. Also, the river where the boat sank is almost 15 meters deep. In order to make the rescue mission easier, authorities had to reduce the amount of water discharged from the Three Gorges Dam, world's biggest hydroelectric facility.
The boat, known as The Eastern Star, is owned by Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corp and measures almost 77 meters long and 11 meters wide. It has a carrying capability of 534 people. It was transporting 406 Chinese passengers with ages between 50 - 80, also 5 travel agency workers and 47 crew members.
By Tuesday night, only 14 survivors and seven bodies had been recovered from the waters. Many of them are still trapped inside the wreck. The ship's captain and chief engineer are among the survivors. They both declared the boat sank within minutes after being caught in a cyclone.
Zhang Hui, another survivor, told Chinese news agency Xinhua that everything happened so fast he only had 30 seconds to grab his life jacket and go out of his cabin, before the boat overturned.
The company that owns the ship is known for offering tourism routes in the Three Gorges region. No comment has yet been made from the officials.
Until the official investigation is over, we can't really say what provoked this tragedy. Could have been a human error or should we blame the bad weather conditions? Nevertheless, this sad event could easily surpass Asia's most deadliest passenger ship disaster, the sinking of the ferry Sewol last year, when 300 people, most of them students, lost their lives. In that case, the captain was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. #Google