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Chinese cruise ship capsize blamed on storm

The capsizing of a cruise ship in China that killed hundreds earlier this year was caused by a strong storm, an official investigation has concluded.

However the report also said representatives of the shipping company and local authorities should be punished for management flaws.

The disaster on the Yangtze River on the evening of June 1 killed 442 people.

Just 12 people survived the capsizing of the Eastern Star, which was carrying many elderly tourists on a 10-day cruise from Nanjing in China's east upstream to Chongqing.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the investigation team concluded that the Eastern Star was brought down "by strong winds and heavy rains" associated with a downburst, a strong downdraft that is "a very rare weather phenomenon".

The conclusion backs up the initial finding that the disaster was caused by strong winds, although passengers' relatives previously raised questions about whether the ship should have continued its voyage despite a weather warning.

Xinhua said the investigation team also found that seven people from the shipping company and 36 local government and party officials should be given administrative punishments for flaws in their daily management, which would likely include demotions and firings.

The seven people included the ship's captain, Zhang Shunwen, whose licence should be revoked and his contract terminated, the investigation concluded. It also recommended that his case be sent for further investigation to determine whether he should face criminal charges.

The captain was arrested after he was rescued from the river, with investigators looking into why he chose to sail into the storm instead of dropping anchor. A government agency in years prior had cited the ship for safety violations, but no-one tied to the capsizing has been convicted of wrongdoing.

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