China Sinking: Yangtze Rescuers Find Dozens Of Bodies


Rescuers have pulled dozens of bodies from a capsized cruise ship in China’s Yangtze River, as authorities promised “no cover-up” over the disaster

Hundreds of people are thought to have died, with only 14 of the 456 passengers known to have survived.

Rescue workers cut open the hull of the upturned vessel but divers have been hampered by near-zero visibility.

Angry relatives staged a protest near the site and broke through police cordons to demand information.

The Chinese government said rescuers would “take all possible measures” to save the injured and promised a “serious investigation”, according to state news agency Xinhua.

“We will never shield mistakes and we’ll absolutely not cover up anything,” Xu Chengguang, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, told a news conference.

President Xi Jinping has convened a special meeting of the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the highest body in the country, Xinhua said.

Coffins delivered
The official death toll rose to 65 on Thursday after 39 more bodies were pulled from the wreck of the Eastern Star.

Large numbers of refrigerated coffins were seen being delivered to a local funeral parlour in Jianli, Hubei province, as authorities braced for hundreds more corpses.

The majority of the victims are believed to be elderly.

Scores of relatives of the passengers have travelled to Jianli to be near the wreck, many from Nanjing where the cruise began in late May.

The families have raised questions about the disaster, including how the ship could have sunk so quickly and why the alarm was apparently slow to be raised.

On Wednesday night, several dozen people pushed through police lines set up to control access to the site and marched towards the river.

Officials have now promised to take them to the rescue site on Thursday.

Another group of relatives staged a protest in Shanghai, where the tour company most passengers had booked through, Xiehe Travel, is based.

Ji Guoxin, whose parents were still missing, said Xiehe Travel had just given them a hotline number and told them to make their own way to Jianli.

Another protester told reporters: “We want somebody from the local government to receive us and tell all family members what we should do.”

Analysis: Celia Hatton, BBC News, Beijing
China’s leaders are taking pains to show they will do everything possible to support search efforts. President Xi Jinping has released a statement promising “all-out rescue efforts” and Premier Li Keqiang, the country’s second-in-command, rushed to the scene to personally direct rescue operations.

But at the ground level, family members of the missing say they’re being ignored by local officials.

The relatives are furious that no-one is providing detailed information about the rescue efforts. Hundreds of relatives are holed up in a nearby hotel lobby, watching the same state television reports for information, furious that no-one is providing them with detailed updates on the rescue efforts.

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 which emerged on Wednesday showed the ship was investigated for safety violations two years ago. It was held alongside five other vessels in 2013 over safety concerns, although no further details are available.