Chinese State Media has released a statement saying that the rescuers have cut the hull of the Cruise Ship “East Star” that had capsized in the Yangtze River late Monday with 400 people feared dead.
Until now, only 14 people have been rescued after the ship sunk due to a storm in the Yangtze River. The Xinhua News Agency declared that this might become the deadliest disaster ever in the last seven decades of China.
“The ship sank in a very short timeframe so there could still be air trapped in the hull,” it quoted Li Qixiu of the Naval University of Engineering as saying, which “means there could still be survivors.”
Li also informed the Xinhua that it would be important to hold the ship steady in order for it to not sink further during this delicate operation.
The ship had carried 456 passengers, most aged over 60. About 20 bodies seemed to have been found on Wednesday, with the divers searching the ship’s cabin for more.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who has been directing the operation, vowed to continue the search despite the tough conditions.
“As long as there is hope, we must go all-out in finding,” the Xinhua quoted him saying.
Meanwhile the relatives of the missing clashed with the police
Information on the disaster has been strictly controlled and officials gave little away during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, providing no figures on deaths or survivors and taking no questions.
Relatives of the passengers clashed with police earlier Wednesday as hope that survivors would be found turned to anger at a lack of news.
A video shared on social media showed pushing and shoving between police and angry relatives outside a local government building in China’s commercial hub of Shanghai, where many of the passengers hailed from.
The mother of seven-year-old Yang Chenlin, who was on the boat with her grandparents, said relatives were desperate for more information. “We need to go to the site. That’s our common appeal,” she said.
“We drove from 10 pm last night to 6 am this morning to get here,” a woman who looked pale and wan told AFP at the hospital, adding that her uncle and aunt had been on board.
“We don’t really know anything,” said a man who had travelled with her.
Hospital officials by late Wednesday had sealed off the facility from reporters, along with a local funeral parlour.
China tightly controls its domestic media and a government directive posted online by the US-based China Digital Times said local outlets had been ordered to only use reports from state media.
Zhang Hui, a 43-year-old tour guide on board who survived despite being unable to swim, told Xinhua he had just “30 seconds to grab a life jacket”.