Sunday, 14 June 2015

China ferry disaster death toll 442 as final bodies recovered from wreck

The toll from a river cruise ship which sank on China's Yangtze river has been confirmed as 442 today, state media reported, with the last of the bodies found and removed from the wreck.

The disaster is China's worst shipping accident in more than 70 years.

Only 12 people survived when the Eastern Star river cruise ship capsized during a storm on June 1, Tang Guanjun, the director of the river's navigation authority, told Xinhua news agency.

All of the dead have now been identified using DNA testing and the bodies have been handed over to relatives, he said. Of the 442 dead, 426 bodies have already been cremated, in line with Chinese custom.

A total of 454 people, mainly tourists in their 60s, were on the ship when it sank in what witnesses said was less than a minute. Weather officials said a freak tornado hit the area at the time and it is believed the vessel may have taken a direct hit.

Tang said earlier reports that 14 people had survived out of 456 had been corrected after "further check-ups and verifications", according to Xinhua.

The final toll comes after search and rescue personnel last week held a memorial for the dead with relatives who gathered from across China near the disaster site.

Information about the sinking, and media access to the site and to relatives of passengers, has been tightly controlled by the state, with online criticism of the search quickly deleted.

Teams searched the ship for days after it had been righted, going cabin to cabin. Poor weather and visibility hampered rescue efforts before the vessel was refloated. The search area was also extended to 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) of the Yangtze, Asia's longest river, in the hope of finding those still missing.

Search and rescue efforts have now been cancelled, with all attention turning to the ongoing investigation into the sinking.

Sunday 14 June 2015


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