4 Jun 2015

Yangtze capsize death toll rises to 65

1:36 pm on 4 June 2015

The death toll from a boat capsize on China's Yangtze River has risen to 65, but more than 370 people remain missing.

Rescue workers can be seen next to the capsized boat on 3 June.

Rescue workers can be seen next to the capsized boat on 3 June. Photo: AFP

State media have reported another 39 bodies were recovered overnight.

Only 14 people, including the captain, have been found alive since the tourist boat carrying 456 mainly elderly people capsized in a freak tornado on Tuesday.

The capsize could be China's worst shipping disaster in almost 70 years.

Families of some of those still missing have broken through a cordon to march to the site and demand answers from authorities about the rescue operation.

Some believed there could still be survivors trapped in an air pocket in the boat's hull.

Rescue workers plan to cut a small rectangular hole through the Eastern Star's upturned hull to get better access, state news agency Xinhua reported.

"The ship sank in a very short time frame, so there could still be air trapped in the hull," Li Qixiu of the Naval University of Engineering told Xinhua.

"That means there could still be survivors."

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

Some relatives have asked the government to release the names of survivors and the dead, while others questioned why most of those rescued were crew members, why the boat did not dock in the storm, and why the rescued captain and crew members had time to put on life vests but did not sound any alarm.

The search area has been extended up to 220 km downstream, suggesting that bodies could have been swept far from where the ship foundered.

Police have detained the captain and chief engineer for questioning. An initial investigation found the ship was not overloaded and had enough life vests on board.

State media said it was the worst recorded ship disaster on the Yangtze River. In 1948, the steamship Kiangya blew up on the Huangpu River, killing more than 1000 people.


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs