Bejing/Nagpur: China mounted a rescue operation today after a passenger ship reportedly carrying more than 450 people sank in the powerful Yangtze river after being hit by stormy weather.
Broadcaster CCTV said that one body had been recovered, and just 10 people rescued so far from the Dongfangzhixing, or “Eastern Star” which sank late Monday en route from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing.
In a report that raised hopes of more survivors, it said that rescue divers knocked on the boat and detected responses from inside, but did not elaborate.
The cause of the sinking in the Jianli region of central Hubei province was not immediately clear, but CCTV said it was an accident.
Among those rescued were the captain and chief engineer of the vessel, who both reportedly said it had been caught in a “cyclone”.
There were 458 people on board when the vessel sank at 9:28 pm (1328 GMT), CCTV said, including 406 Chinese passengers, five travel agency workers and 47 crew members.
China News Service cited Yao Wenge, of the Nanjing maritime affairs administration, as saying 406 passengers went on board in the eastern city of Nanjing.
The Hubei Daily newspaper quoted an unnamed official with the Yangtze maritime affairs administration as saying that one group of passengers sent by a tourism agency in Shanghai were aged between 50 and 80 years.
According to CCTV, the vessel — which measures 76.5 metres long (250 feet) in length) — is capable of carrying up to 534 people, and was owned by a firm that operated tours in the Three Gorges dam region, which is some distance from the accident site.
The sinking occurred in the middle reaches of the Yangtze, which at 6,300 kilometres (3,900 miles) is China’s longest.