Tragedy on the Yangtze
Monday was a disastrous day for an Eastern Star Cruise, as the ship was reported to have been caught in an unexpected storm and capsized on the way to the Three Gorges Dam. Rescuers are now searching for any remaining survivors and the bodies of the passengers. At this time, only 14 of the 456 people who were on the boat have been found alive. Many of the passengers on the ship were in their 60’s and 70’s, making it unlikely that any survivors will be found.
It’s believe that a sudden storm was the cause of the vessel’s capsizing. Interviews from survivors reveal that the bad weather may have come on too quickly for crew members to send out a distress signal or evacuate passengers. Other boats on the river at the same time reported rain and fog, with most dropping anchor to wait out the bad weather. However, there may not have been enough time for the Eastern Star to react. Questions are still being raised to why the Eastern Star was the only ship among many on the busy river to have gone down.
China is being open and cooperative about discussing the disaster, although very controlling as to who is allowed at the scene. While Ministry of Transport spokesperson Xu Chengguang declared, “We will never shield mistakes and we’ll absolutely not cover up anything”, the government has instructed the press not to send their own reporters and instead use the information provided by officials. The Chinese government promises to investigate the scene of the accident and the surviving crew members thoroughly. The river and boat are currently off limits to outside and to the public. The captain and chief engineer, both among the survivors, have been detained after their rescue from the ship.
Families of the boat’s passengers are making their way to Jianli, where the coffins of those pulled from the ship are being stored. There is concern and reports that relatives of the missing are being ignored by Chinese officials. Family members have received little to no communication or instruction from the government. Many do not know whether their loved ones have been found or are still among the missing. Over 60 bodies have been recovered at this point, and divers are still on the job. Everyone at UNAGB hopes the family members will receive information and closure soon.