The Yangtze River in Hubei province, China, is the world’s third longest river and has been considered as a source of physical and spiritual lifeline to the Chinese people through its history.
And its on this historically spiritual river that a cruise ship carrying about 456 people have capsized on Monday, June 1, 2015 at about 21:30 local time.
The passengers, according to Chinese State media are all over 50 years old and would have paid about $300 for a shared economy class cabin. It is not yet certain whether the passengers had been going to the Three Gorges Dam which is a little further away from where the ship capsized.
So far, only five people have died according to rescue mission while at least 15 people have been found alive inside the submerged hull of the ship (Eastern Star). The captain of the ship who is one of the survival has been detained by authorities alongside with the Chief engineer and both men have explained that the ship was caught in a cyclone and that the ship did not send out a signal.
However, hundreds are still missing even with rescue operation continuing far into the night. The rescue operations on its own is being hindered by bad weather. BBC reports that the captain said that the ship had sunk within minutes while many of the passengers were asleep.
Among the survivors who have been rescued, Mr. Zhang, a tour guide told Xinhua State news agency that heavy rains came through the cabin windows which made many passengers to go into the ship’s hall to keep sheets and other things dry.
According to Mr. Zhang, he had “30 seconds to grab a life jacket,” and had to hold on to something that could help him keep his head above water. And then he had to clamber out of the window in the rain and “wave after wave crashed over me; I swallowed a lot of water,” he said.
He heard he listened to the cries of a dozen people within the ship after he had come out for about 30 minutes but they all fell silent after that and he drifted into the reeds where he was rescued.
The rescue team comprises of about 150 boats with 4,000 emergency personnel.
CCTV footage show rescuers trying to knock on the hull with hammers in an attempt to establish contact with any of the trapped people. Most of the passengers were all aged between 50 and 80 years embarking on the 1,500km journey. The ship was reported to have sank at Damazhou waterway where the Yangtze river reaches a depth of about 50ft.