Yangtze river tragedy: Chinese rescuers lift capsized cruise ship; toll reaches 82
Jianli (China): The death toll from a Chinese cruise ship that capsized on the Yangtze River has climbed to 82, state media said on Friday as disaster teams righted the vessel to quicken the search for more than 350 victims still missing.
The focus has now shifted to recover bodies as the rescue teams have very little hope of finding anyone alive. Only 14 survivors have been found, including the captain, out of 456 on board.
Some survived 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 Tuesday after rescuers heard yells for help coming from inside.
The boat capsized when it overturned in a freak tornado on Monday night.
The operation to right the Eastern Star started late Thursday and shifted the focus from finding survivors to retrieving bodies. State broadcaster CCTV announced Friday morning that the boat had been righted, and that teams would still try to lift the vessel even though the water inside it was weighing it down.
Footage shown by state television showed that one side of the ship was lifted above the water. It was expected to be raised and put back in the normal position during the course of the day.
Transport Ministry spokesman Xu Chengguang said earlier that the operation would involve divers putting steel bars underneath the ship, which would then be lifted by two 500-ton cranes. A huge net was placed near the cranes and another one a few meters (yards) downstream to catch any bodies.
Two smaller cranes were also on site and boats were stopped from entering the area.
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."
On Thursday, rescuers had 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 Thursday 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, 251-foot (77-meter) -long Eastern Star were reported to be retirees taking in the scenic vistas of the Yangtze on a cruise from Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing.
(With inputs from agencies)