Tuesday 27 September 2016

Disaster teams prepare to pull Yangtze River cruise ship upright to search for more than 360 trapped victims

Press Association

Published 04/06/2015 | 20:30

Relatives of a missing passenger aboard a capsized ship cry on the banks of the Jianli section of Yangtze River in Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015. HREUTERS/Aly Song
Relatives of a missing passenger aboard a capsized ship cry on the banks of the Jianli section of Yangtze River in Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015. HREUTERS/Aly Song
A relative of a missing passenger aboard the capsized ship Eastern Star cries on the banks of the Jianli section of Yangtze River in Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song
Relatives of passengers onboard the capsized cruise ship comfort each other during a candle light vigil in Jianli county in southern China's Hubei province, Thursday, June 4, 2015. (Chinatopix via AP)
A man reacts during a candle light vigil by locals and family members of passengers onboard the capsized cruise ship in Jianli county in southern China's Hubei province Thursday June 4, 2015. (Chinatopix Via AP)
Locals and relatives of passengers onboard the capsized cruise ship pray during a candle light vigil in Jianli county, in southern China's Hubei province, Thursday June 4, 2015. (Chinatopix Via AP)
Paramilitary soliders wear protective gear on the banks as they wait to transport bodies near the site of a sunken ship in the Jianli section of Yangtze River, Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song
Paramilitary soliders walk on the banks as they wait to transport bodies near the site of a sunken ship in the Jianli section of Yangtze River, Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song
A relative of a missing passenger aboard a capsized ship cries on the banks of the Jianli section of Yangtze River in Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song
Relatives of missing passengers aboard a capsized ship cry on the banks of the Jianli section of Yangtze River in Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song
Paramilitary soliders stand on the banks as they wait to transport bodies near the site of a sunken ship in the Jianli section of Yangtze River, Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015.REUTERS/Aly Song
Paramilitary soliders ride boats near the site of a sunken ship in the Jianli section of Yangtze River, Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song
A paramilitary solider stands guard on the banks near the site of a sunken ship in the Jianli section of Yangtze River, Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song
A relative of a missing passenger aboard a capsized ship cries on the banks of the Jianli section of Yangtze River in Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song
A television crew films during a media trip to the site of the sinking of a cruise ship, organized by the Chinese government, in the Jianli section of Yangtze River, Hubei province, China, June 3, 2015. Picture taken June 3, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
A relative of a missing passenger aboard the capsized ship Eastern Star (R) reacts next to paramilitary police blocking civilians' access to an area nearby the site of the sunken ship in the Jianli section of Yangtze River, Hubei province China, June 3, 2015. Picture taken June 3, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Disaster teams have recovered 77 bodies from a capsized cruise ship in the Yangtze River.

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They are now preparing to use cranes to start pulling it upright to quicken the search for more than 360 other victims who could be trapped inside.

The operation to right the Eastern Star shifted the focus from finding survivors more than 72 hours after it overturned to salvaging the vessel and retrieving bodies.

Transport Ministry spokesman Xu Chengguang said divers would put steel bars underneath the ship, which would then be lifted by two 500-ton cranes.

A huge net has been placed near the cranes and another one a few metres downstream to catch any bodies.

Two smaller cranes were also on site and boats were stopped from entering the area.

Authorities say 14 people survived Monday night's sudden capsizing in a severe storm, some by jumping from the ship during the early moments and swimming or drifting ashore.

Three of them were pulled by divers from air pockets inside the overturned hull on Tuesday after rescuers heard yells for help coming from inside.

Mr Xu told a news conference that no further signs of life had been found and the chance of finding anyone else alive was "very slim."

It was therefore time to right the ship to speed up rescue and recovery efforts, he said.

Earlier Thursday, rescuers cut three holes into the overturned hull in unsuccessful attempts to find more survivors.

More than 200 divers have worked underwater in three shifts to search the ship's cabins one by one, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Rescuers pulled out dozens of bodies which were taken to Jianli's Rongcheng Crematorium, in Hubei province, where relatives tried to identify them.

Many of the more than 450 people on board the multi-decked, 251ft long Eastern Star were reported to be retirees taking in the scenic vistas of the Yangtze on a cruise from Nanjing to the south-western city of Chongqing.

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