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Yangtze Ship Tragedy: Death Toll Rises to 396 as Emergency Workers Search Vessel


According to Chinese authorities, the death toll from the Eastern Star cruise ship disaster now stands at 396 as emergency workers search the vessel in the Yangtze River.

The Eastern Star capsized in a storm on June 1 and was turned upright in an operation on June 5.

Just 14 of the 456 passengers and crew are known to have survived. More than 40 are still missing.

The tragedy looks set to be China’s worst shipping disaster in more than 60 years of Communist rule.

Hooks were welded onto the ship and a net stretched around the entire structure in order to lift it by crane.

Most of the bodies retrieved were inside the vessel. State television says the focus of the recovery operation is the top and bottom decks of the ship.Eastern Star cruise ship disaster Yngtze River

Officials said there had been no further signs of life inside the ship, Xinhua news agency reports.

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.

Most of the 14 people known to have survived jumped from the ship as it began to sink. Three were rescued by divers from air pockets in the upturned hull.

The cause of the sinking is not yet known, but survivors have spoken of an intense storm which flipped the boat over in minutes.

The captain and chief engineer, who were among those who escaped, have since been detained.

Maritime agency records showed the Eastern Star was investigated for safety violations two years ago. It was held alongside five other vessels in 2013 over safety concerns.

The Eastern Star could become China’s deadliest boat accident since the SS Kiangya sank off Shanghai in 1948, killing somewhere between 2,750 and 4,000 people.