State-run Chinese media aired footage Tuesday of feverish rescue operations along the Yangtze River Tuesday, one day after the Eastern Star cruise ship capsized in about 50 feet of water with 458 passengers on board. At least five people were killed in the incident, while hundreds more remained missing. Authorities said they were “racing against time” to find survivors, according to local media.
Chinese authorities had located just 15 passengers who had survived the incident by Tuesday night local time, the New York Times reported. Video of the rescue efforts showed workers pulling a distraught elderly woman from the river’s rough waters, while others endeavored amid heavy rain to reach at least five passengers trapped underneath the cruise ship’s capsized hull, Reuters reported. Separate video footage released by state-run news agency Xinhua showed the cruise ship’s activity at some point before it capsized.
“We thought going out to have some fun on the boat would be really good. How could it come to be that something like this happened? We never imagined it, really never imagined it,” a man identified as a friend or relative of one of the cruise ship’s passengers told reporters Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Officials confirmed that five bodies were found at the accident site, but have so far been unable to locate more than 400 of the ship’s passengers, who ranged in age from three to 80. Most passengers were elderly tourists traveling from Nanjing to Chongqing, the BBC reports.
Nearly 200 rescue divers will be active at the accident site by Wednesday, with thousands more involved in overall operations, officials said. The four-deck ship capsized amid rough weather conditions but did not send an emergency signal ahead of the accident. The ship’s captain and chief engineer, both of whom survived the incident though neither has been named, were taken in for questioning.
With hundreds of passengers still unaccounted for, fears were growing that the Eastern Star incident could become China’s deadliest maritime disaster in nearly seven decades.