Chinese rescuers prepare to lift righted cruise ship from Yangtze – CNN
Jianli County, China (CNN)Salvage crews carried out an elaborate operation of uprighting the capsized Chinese cruise ship after hopes of finding survivors among the hundreds trapped inside receded.
State television showed the battered blue Eastern Star cruise still partially submerged and surrounded by floating cranes in the muddy waters of the Yangtze River.
So far, divers have recovered the bodies of at least 97 victims from the wreck.
At least 456 passengers and crew were on board the vessel when it overturned in a powerful storm Monday night. Only 14 survivors escaped from the ship.
By Thursday evening, life detector and dive searches had yielded no new survivors, so authorities proceeded with salvage efforts.
Crews are preparing to drain the water in the ship and then have it float on its own, said Xu Chengguang, Transport Ministry spokesman. They are also preparing to deal with potential oil leaks from the ship, he added. The vessel could be lifted from the water by the afternoon.
About 150 ships are in the search and rescue area near the crumpled Eastern Star. Authorities said they would search every cabin, the official news agency Xinhua reported.
One man’s heavy grief
The deadly accident has gripped China as relatives of Eastern Star passengers converged in Jianli, desperate for answers about their missing loved ones.
The Eastern Star was on a multi-day cruise up the Yangtze, from Nanjing to Chongqing. Many of the passengers were in their 60s and 70s.
Among the people seeking information is Jian, a man from Jiangsu province who asked that his last name not be published. He had four family members aboard the cruise — his mother, father, aunt and uncle.
When Jian located the ship on a map, he hired a motorcycle driver to take him to the riverside to get as close to the vessel as possible. He arrived at a muddy path along the Yangtze.
“When I was slogging through the ankle-high muddy path along the Yangtze River, all of a sudden I remembered a similar path where my dad took me to fish when I was a kid,” he said. “I immediately took my cell phone out, dialed my dad’s number again and again, but there was no answer.”
“I couldn’t see the ship. But I was so close to him. I just wanted to be closer.”
Jian says he accepts the fact that his loved ones have died.
He said, “it was almost a sure thing that nobody was alive” after seeing the waters.
Some family members have been angry with the government, for not doing enough to save their loved ones from the river.
And Jian is among those who haven’t been satisfied with the response, but he remains calm.
On Thursday, he joined other family members and locals who gathered in Jianli’s town square for a somber candle-lit vigil in honor of the hundreds of people presumed dead.
Family members say they have been giving blood samples to provide the DNA necessary for identifying the bodies of victims pulled from the wreckage.
In the town of Jianli, not far from the stretch of river where the Eastern Star capsized, crowds of children chattered with excitement Friday morning as they tied hundreds of fluttering yellow ribbons on a fence outside their school.
The ribbons are part of a campaign of support for victims of the cruise ship accident.
Nine-year-old Yi Duo Duo wrote on his ribbon, “I wish you come back safe,” before tying it to the fence.
Other residents have put up signs of sympathy outside their homes and businesses.
Questions over cause of disaster
Questions remain about what happened to the Eastern Star on Monday night.
Authorities have taken the captain and the chief engineer into custody but have revealed little about what they have said, other than that a tornado hit the ship.
It’s unclear why the Eastern Star was the only ship on the busy waterway so badly affected by the storm.
Satellite information from a website run by the Chinese Transportation Ministry shows the cruise ship suddenly changing direction a matter of minutes before authorities say it sank.
But what caused the ship to start moving downstream rather than upstream isn’t clear. One possibility is that the change in direction came after the ship was left disabled and drifting by the storm.
Top government officials have demanded an investigation into the cause of the disaster.