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China ship disaster death toll rises to 396

DUBAI, June 6, 2015

The death toll from a Chinese cruise ship which capsized during a storm in the Yangtze River has reached 396, a government spokesman said on Saturday.

Only 14 survivors, one of them the captain, have been found after the ship carrying 456 overturned in a freak tornado on Monday night, in one of China's worst shipping disaster in nearly 70 years.

State-broadcaster CCTV had said the confirmed death toll at 2:30 am was 154, suggesting that more than 200 bodies were discovered overnight after the ship was raised from the water.

As images showed the battered blue and white vessel, a CCTV reporter at the scene said the rescuers' torches were visible inside the ship overnight.

Efforts on Saturday will focus on the upper-level of the ship, which partly collapsed. "Reaching the top floor has been an arduous task," the reporter said.

Rescuers used massive cranes on Thursday night to right the ship at the site of the disaster in Hubei province's Jianli county, after a Chinese transport ministry spokesman said there was "no possibility of survival," for those left missing.

The cranes began lifting the ship from the site of its capsize on Friday, completing the task within hours.

Reports citing witnesses said the 76.5 metre long and 2,200 tonne ship overturned in under a minute, and weather officials said a freak tornado hit the area at the time.

The vessel was cited for safety infractions two years ago, according to a notice by the Nanjing Maritime Bureau, but no further details have been given about the state of the ship.

Investigators will probe the ship's structure for flaws, CCTV said, after the ruling Communist party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee vowed to leave "no doubts remaining," about the disaster.

Among the rescue effort were more than 3,400 soldiers and 1,700 paramilitary police and 149 vessels, Xinhua said.-Reuters




Tags: China | Death toll |

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