BEIJING — A small cruise ship carrying more than 450 people sank overnight in the Yangtze River during a storm in southern China, and eight people have been rescued, the state broadcaster CCTV reported Tuesday.
Rescue work was underway but low visibility due to fog was hampering the search, CCTV said. The boat was travelling from Nanjing upstream to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank Monday night in Hubei province, the report said.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted the captain and chief engineer, who were both rescued, as saying the ship sank quickly after being caught in a cyclone. The Communist Party-run People’s Daily said the ship sank within two minutes.
CCTV said the four-level ship was carrying 406 Chinese passengers, five travel agency employees and 47 crew members. It sank in the Damazhou waterway section, where the river is 15 metres (about 50 feet) deep.
CCTV video footage of the river showed calm waters Tuesday morning, with dozens of rescue personnel in bright orange vests gathered on the shore. Several rescue ships were searching the waters, and submersible craft had been deployed.
The channel said seven of the survivors swam to shore and alerted authorities of the sinking.
The Eastern Star yacht measured 251 feet long (76.5 metres) and 36 feet wide (11 metres) and was capable of carrying a maximum of 534 people, CCTV reported. It is owned by the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corp., which focuses on tourism routes in the popular Three Gorges river canyon region.
CCTV reported that 6 inches (150 millimeters) of rain had fallen in the region over the past 24 hours.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is reported to be travelling to the accident site. Xinhua reported that President Xi Jinping had ordered a work team of the State Council, the country’s Cabinet, to rush to the site to guide the rescue work.