Families mourn at China shipwreck site as survivor hopes fade

June 3, 2015 | By | Reply More

June 03, – Dozens of people broke through a police cordon on Wednesday as they marched towards the site of a sunken cruise ship in the Yangtze River to demand news of missing relatives.

hromedia Families mourn at China shipwreck site as survivor hopes fade intl. news3Rescuers searched for more than 400 missing people, many of them elderly, but hopes were fading of finding more survivors from the worst shipping disaster in modern Chinese history.

Only 14 people, including the ship’s captain, have been found alive since the ship capsized in a tornado on Monday night with 456 people on board. Just 29 bodies have been recovered.

Frustrated by the scarcity of information coming from local authorities, about 80 family members hired a bus to take them from Nanjing to Jianli county in Hubei, an eight-hour journey. They started walking towards the rescue site late on Wednesday night.

“This isn’t going to be much use, we’re just doing this for the government to see,” said organiser Wang Feng.

The protesters later broke through a cordon of 20 to 25 paramilitary police who had tried to prevent them from going through a roadblock.

In the early hours of Thursday, the deputy police chief of Jiangsu province, where Nanjing is the capital, told the relatives they could go to the disaster site only in the daytime.

He promised to arrange buses for them to view the boat in the morning, adding that journalists were barred from going.

Volunteers from Jianli offered rides and water to the marchers, and some people tied yellow ribbons to their car wing mirrors. Some of the relatives broke down in tears near the site.

Earlier, 47 of the relatives asked the government to release the names of the living and the dead to them at the rescue site, according to a statement.

In a separate statement, other relatives questioned why most of the people rescued were crew members, why the boat did not dock, and why the captain and crew members had time to don their life vests but not to sound any alarm.

RESCUE EFFORT

State television showed rescuers, some standing on the Eastern Star’s upturned hull, and scores of divers working through the night.

Divers face difficulties such as cabin doors blocked by tables and beds. There is also the fear that rashly cutting holes in the hull could burst air pockets keeping people alive.

“Although there’s lots of work to do, saving people is still being put first,” Transport Ministry spokesman Xu Chengguang told reporters.

TV pictures showed a rain-soaked Premier Li Keqiang, who is on the scene overseeing rescue efforts, bowing in respect to two bodies laid out on the deck of a boat covered in sheets.

“Life is greater than the heavens, and the burden on your shoulders is massive,” Li told a group of military divers.

Some relatives were already bracing for the worst.

“Yesterday I still had some hope. The boat is big and the water hadn’t gone all the way in. Now, it’s been more than 40 hours. I ask you, what do I have left?” said Wang, a 35-year-old wedding photographer whose father was on the ship.

The ship had been on an 11-day voyage upstream from Nanjing, near Shanghai, to Chongqing.

The People’s Daily said the ship passed inspections by authorities in Chongqing last month. But according to documents from a local maritime watchdog, it was investigated and held by authorities due to defects in 2013.

The Nanjing Maritime Safety Administration had investigated Eastern Star as part of a safety campaign into passenger ferries and tour boats and held the ship along with five other vessels, according to three documents on the bureau’s website.

The documents gave no details of the defects but said the issues were reported to the Chongqing maritime safety bureau.

The search area has been extended up to 220 km (135 miles) downstream, state television said, suggesting that bodies could have been swept far from where the ship foundered.

Press journalist for HRO media – Debi Campillos reports.

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Category: International

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