Capsized Chinese ship victims’ families protest

Beijing, June 5 (IANS) The family members of the passengers still missing from the Eastern Star cruise ship that capsized on Monday in central China protested during a daily press briefing by the government on Friday.

Although 14 people have been rescued, over 300 passengers who were aboard the ship are still missing.

Most of them were between 50 and 80 years old.

Meanwhile, the toll continues to rise. The government raised the number of deaths in the accident to 97 as rescue teams turned the ship back upright.

“Why, if there was a weather alert, was the ship not moored like the others were?” asked an indignant Xia Yunchen, whose elder sister was one of the passengers.

Desperate for some information, Xia began to shout at the end of the press conference in an attempt to attract the attention of the media and authorities, Efe news agency reported.

“I want to speak with them. Let me speak,” she shouted, surrounded by cameras as officials tried to whisk her away.

Over a dozen other family members were also present at the press conference to try to speak with reporters to express their grouses and demand answers.

Besides demanding evidence to prove that the accident was caused by a tornado, the families are also asking to see the bodies of the victims and that they be taken to their hometowns to be buried according to Chinese tradition.

Authorities are keeping a close guard over the family members and not allowing them to talk to the media.

After Xia’s exit from the press conference, officials and police officers put a metallic fence separating the other family members present there from reporters.

In a private meeting on Thursday, government officials met the victims’ family members for the first time to update them on the rescue operation.

During the meeting, the families expressed their anger at the government’s management of the disaster and the helplessness they were feeling.

The shipwreck of the Eastern Star, that sails along one of the most popular tourist routes on the Yangtse river, is well on its way to becoming the worst shipwreck in China’s history.

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