China completes DNA collection to identify ship dead

In this Saturday, 6 June 2015 photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, rescuers carry the body of a victim in the hull of the upright ship Eastern Star in the section of Jianli on the Yangtze River, central China's Hubei Province. Image copyright AP
Image caption Authorities are trying to identify the more than 430 victims of the disaster

China has completed the DNA collection needed to identify the 432 bodies recovered so far from last week's deadly Yangtze boat disaster.

The Eastern Star, mostly carrying elderly tourists, capsized on 1 June near Jianli in Hubei province.

Just 14 of the 456 passengers and crew are known to have survived.

A search is continuing for eight people who remain missing. Authorities have extended the search area to 1,000km (621 miles) downriver.

The sinking was the worst maritime disaster China has seen in decades.

DNA matching

Authorities are now planning to collect DNA from family members for matching purposes.

A spokesman for China's public security ministry, Min Jianxiong, told reporters that they expect to finish matching the DNA within the next few days, and added that a number of victims had already been identified.

Meanwhile authorities have begun cremating victims so that they can return their ashes to their families for burial, as per Chinese custom.

The BBC's Celia Hatton in Beijing says activity has moved from the hollow shell of the capsized cruise ship to a nearby morgue.

Relatives were seen weeping as they arrived at the morgue in Jianli to have one last look at their loved ones before cremation, AP reported.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Relatives have been arriving at Jianli to mourn their loved ones and collect their ashes

On Sunday - a week after the disaster took place - many congregated by the shore of the Yangtze to hold mourning ceremonies.

Meanwhile new pictures emerged of the interior of the Eastern Star - known as Dongfangzhixing in Chinese - which was pulled upright on Friday for search operations over the weekend.

Why did cruise ship capsize?

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Searchers looked in all the rooms including crew dormitories
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Clocks in the passenger hall showed the times they were supposed to reach the next port and when they last left

Searchers said rooms were "severely ruined" and strewn with debris.

The top floor was crushed and rescuers had to break into rooms using chainsaws, according to Reuters news agency.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The control room was badly damaged
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rescue workers left muddy hand prints as they searched the debris-filled ship

Our correspondent says questions still linger as to how the massive ship sank in just a few minutes, without anyone issuing a distress call.

Some in the Chinese state media argue that modifications to the ship's interior made it more difficult for those on board to escape in an emergency.

Others point to the possibility of human error and have questioned the decision to continue sailing in rough weather.

The Chinese authorities arrested the ship's captain and chief engineer, who were among the survivors, but they have not announced plans for a criminal inquiry into the disaster.

The cause of the sinking is not yet known, but survivors have spoken of an intense storm which flipped the boat over in minutes.


The Eastern Star

Image copyright EPA
  • The 76m-long, 2,200-tonne ship was named Dongfangzhixing in Chinese
  • It was carrying 405 passengers - mostly elderly tourists but also one three-year-old - as well as five travel agency employees and 46 crew members.
  • The ship is owned by the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation, and passengers had booked their trip through a travel agency in Shanghai.
  • The cruise left the eastern city of Nanjing in April and was travelling to Chongqing in the south-west via the Three Gorges - a journey of at least 1,500km (930 miles).

In pictures: Ship righted

Yangtze River tragedy on trip of a lifetime

Could Mei-yu weather front be behind disaster?

Questions raised over Eastern Star's sinking


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