JIANLI, China, Jun 3 – Relatives of more than 400 people missing after a cruise ship capsized on China’s Yangtze river were hoping for a “miracle” Wednesday, as authorities said they were racing against time to find any survivors.
State media said just 14 people have been rescued from the “Eastern Star” which overturned late Monday in a storm, with just a section of its hull emerging from the murky waters.
Another 18 bodies have been recovered, state broadcaster CCTV said, leaving hundreds of mostly elderly passengers still missing and possibly trapped within the ship, which witnesses said sank in a matter of seconds.
A total of 456 people had been on board the vessel, which was plying a popular tourist route from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing.
The ship has 150 compartments and divers are searching each room one by one, CCTV said, while authorities have expanded the search area to include areas around Wuhan, 220 kilometres (136 miles) downstream.
Engineers are looking at the possibility of cutting open the hull in three places or lifting the vessel into an upright position, the state broadcaster said. READ: Ship with over 450 on board sinks in China’s Yangtze.
But divers looking for survivors face extremely difficult conditions.
“The river water in the where the accident happened is quite muddy and there is virtually no visibility,” Zhang Jianxin, vice director of the transport ministry’s rescue department, said on CCTV.
“Divers can only rely on touch while submerging, searching and rescuing.”
Some 36 hours after the accident, hopes for more survivors are dwindling.
“We are in a race against the clock in the search,” transport minister Yang Chuantang said.
“It happened suddenly and the rescue has been quite difficult,” he said Tuesday as driving rain hampered the search. “As long as there is the slightest hope, we will make every effort and never give up.”
Relatives were also refusing to give up.
“I’m hoping for a miracle,” Tan Zhenxing, whose father worked on the boat, told the China Daily newspaper.