• More than 390 confirmed dead in ship sinking

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    KILLER SHIP  Cranes raise the sunken ship ‘Eastern Star’ at the disaster site in Jianli, central China’s Hubei province. AFP PHOTO

    KILLER SHIP
    Cranes raise the sunken ship ‘Eastern Star’ at the disaster site in Jianli, central China’s Hubei province. AFP PHOTO

    JIANLI, China: A total of 396 people have been confirmed dead after a cruise ship capsized in China, state media said, making it the country’s worst shipping disaster in nearly 70 years.

    Only 14 people have been confirmed alive out of the 456—mostly tourists aged over 60—on board when the “Eastern Star” rapidly sunk on the Yangtze river in a storm on Monday.

    The death toll jumped by over 200 after rescuers hoisted the battered ship out of the Yangtze river on Friday and began recovering bodies trapped inside.

    The official Xinhua news agency put the number of dead at 396 as of noon local time on Saturday.

    That would make it China’s worst shipping disaster since 1948, when up to 4000 on board the SS Kiangya were killed when it sunk near the city of Shanghai.

    As images showed the blue and white vessel’s caved-in roof, a state-broadcaster CCTV said rescuers’ torches were visible inside the ship overnight.

    Online images showed workers from surgical suits handling body bags in the vessel’s dark cabins, while others slept on a nearby floating platform, exhausted by their grim work.

    A total of 46 people remain missing, but a government spokesman said on Thursday that no new survivors are expected to be found.

    Rescuers used massive cranes to lift the ship at the site of the disaster in Hubei province’s Jianli county on Friday.

    Reports citing witnesses said the 76.5 meter long and 2,200 ton 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.

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