Chian ship tragedy: Death toll touches 331

Authorities have attributed the overturning of the cruise boat in the Yangtze which resulted in China's deadliest boat disaster in nearly seven decades to sudden, severe winds.

By: Associated Press | Jianli | Updated: June 6, 2015 3:58:16 pm
Yangtze, Yangtze cruise, Yangtze cruise sinks, China cruise, china cruise sinks, china cruise sinking, china cruise yangtze, china boat sinking, china yangtze, china news, world news Marine boats patrol as a capsized ship is righted by cranes on the Yangtze River in Jianli county of southern China’s Hubei province, as seen from across the river from Huarong county of southern China’s Hunan province, Friday, June 5, 2015. (Source: AP)

The death toll in the Eastern Star capsizing rose to 331 on Saturday as disaster teams searched the now-upright ship for more bodies, making it China’s deadliest boat disaster in nearly seven decades.

Authorities have attributed the overturning of the cruise boat in the Yangtze River late Monday to sudden, severe winds, but also have placed the surviving captain and his first engineer under police custody.

Passengers’ relatives have raised questions about whether the ship should have continued its cruise after the storm started in a section of Hubei province and despite a weather warning earlier in the evening.

State media outlets said hundreds more bodies were found overnight and Saturday, bringing the death toll to 331.

Picture Gallery: Capsized China cruise ship pulled out from Yangtze

The state broadcaster CCTV and the official Xinhua News Agency earlier Saturday morning put the death toll at 345, but they both later revised the number downward to 331. More than 100 remain unaccounted for.

The boat had more than 450 people aboard, many of them elderly tourists, for a cruise from Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing.

Yangtze, Yangtze cruise, Yangtze cruise sinks, China cruise, china cruise sinks, china cruise sinking, china cruise yangtze, china boat sinking, china yangtze, china news, world news Rescue workers prepare to approach the tourist ship Eastern Star after cranes righted the ship in Jianli county in southern China’s Hubei province Friday, June 5, 2015. Top-deck cabins poked out of the water from the capsized river cruise ship on the Yangtze on Friday after disaster teams righted the vessel to quicken the search for people who were still missing. (Source: Chinatopix Via AP)

Fourteen people survived, including three pulled out by divers from air pockets in the overturned hull on Tuesday.

Disaster teams put chains around the hull and used cranes to roll the banged-up, white and blue boat upright and then gradually lift it out of the gray currents of the Yangtze on Friday.

READ: First glimpse of capsized China ship as it emerges from river Yangtze

China’s deadliest maritime disaster in recent decades was the Dashun ferry, which caught fire and capsized off Shandong province in November 1999, killing about 280.

The Eastern Star disaster could become the country’s worst since the sinking of the SS Kiangya off Shanghai in 1948, which is believed to have killed anywhere from 2,750 to nearly 4,000 people.

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