China ship tragedy: Toll escalates to 396

Beijing, June 6 (IANS) A total of 396 people have been confirmed dead after rescuers lifted a Chinese cruise ship that capsized on the Yangtze river on June 1, authorities said on Saturday.

Only 14 people have been found rescued so far, while 46 others remain missing, rescue officials said.

The Eastern Star was carrying 456 people on a 11-day trip along the river when it capsized in a tornado on Monday night, Xinhua news agency reported.

On Friday, the 2,200-tonne ship was righted and by 4 p.m., it was being hoisted out of the water. By 6.50 p.m., the entire hull was above the water, allowing rescuers to enter.

On Friday night, Jiang Zhao, legal representative of Chongqing Dongfang Shipping Company that owns the Eastern Star, apologised to all the victims and their families and promised to cooperate with any investigation.

The 76.5-metre vessel had been in service for nearly 20 years and can carry up to 534 people.

It went through an annual maintenance in 2014, and was qualified to cruise until April 25, 2016, according to Jiang.

Over 3,400 soldiers and 1,700 police together with 149 vessels and a helicopter have taken part in the rescue mission.

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