China

China ship sinking on Yangtze 'caused by freak weather'

The Eastern Star cruise ship (30 December 2015) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Eastern Star captain could still face charges

An inquiry into the sinking of a Chinese cruise ship with the loss of nearly 450 lives on the Yangtze River in June has concluded that it happened because of highly unusual weather.

It also recommended the captain be investigated for possible charges.

The sinking was caused by "freak" strong winds and heavy rain, it said.

One relative of victims told the BBC she could not accept the report, saying it treated the captain too leniently and did not offer an apology.

"The captain... should have already been sentenced," the Shanghai-based woman - who lost both parents in the disaster - said.

She said that she had not been contacted by the authorities before the publication of the report on Wednesday and was unhappy that she had not received any help from the authorities in getting insurance compensation.

"The authorities should at least give us the truth and an apology," she said, "my parents died in vain."

Sudden squall

The inquiry named 43 junior officials as being partially responsible for the sinking of the Eastern Star, calling for them to be sacked or disciplined.

The vessel capsized with mostly elderly holidaymakers on board in one of China's worst shipping disasters in more than six decades - generating much public anger. Only 12 people survived.


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 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).

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The Eastern Star was hit by a sudden squall during a journey from Nanjing to Chongqing on the night of 1 June. Strong winds that accompanied the downpour overturned the vessel, the report said.

It took just a minute or so to flip over.

The inquiry accused the captain and other staff of an "inadequate response" to the dangerous circumstances, including a failure to send a distress signal. He was unaware of the risks associated with the extreme weather, it said, and should have his ship captaining qualifications cancelled.

In addition, legal bodies should assess whether he is suspected of any crime, it said.

Investigators say that while the ship was not overloaded and had enough life vests on board, the company running it did not properly monitor its condition.

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