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China boat rescue efforts escalated

Chinese authorities have escalated efforts to recover more than 410 people believed to be trapped inside an overturned river cruise ship.

The capsizing of the multi-decked Eastern Star in the Yangtze River in southern China is on track to become the country's deadliest maritime disaster in seven decades.

Chinese authorities have launched a high-profile response while tightly controlling media coverage.

Premier Li Keqiang, the country's deputy political leader, has travelled to the disaster site in the Hubei province county of Jianli where he urged "all-out 24-7 efforts".

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said the bodies of 26 victims have been pulled from the boat, floating Wednesday with a sliver of its hull jutting from the grey river water, and that 14 people had survived - some of them by swimming ashore.

But the vast majority of the 456 people on board remain missing. Many were elderly tourists taking in the scenic vistas of the Yangtze on a cruise from Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing.

The shallow-draft boat, which was not designed to withstand heavy winds as an ocean-going vessel can, overturned in what Chinese weather authorities have called a cyclone with winds up to 80 mph.

The squad of 13 navy divers who searched the boat on Tuesday - and pulled out three trapped survivors from air pockets after voices were heard through the hull - was expanded to more than 180, airlifted from the provincial capital of Wuhan and from as far away as Guangzhou.

CCTV said rescuers were deciding whether to cut into the overturned hull - an option that would imply hopes still lingered for finding survivors trapped in air pockets - or to right the ship by bringing two salvage ships to the stern and bow to act as a vise keeping the craft in place while a crane pulls it back into an upright position.

Transport Ministry spokesman Xu Chengguang said divers would continue to search the ship for as long as possible.


From Belfast Telegraph