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Death toll jumps to 331 in Yangtze River capsizing

/ 11:28 AM June 06, 2015
Paramilitary policemen in white overalls wait to recover bodies from the Eastern Star after it is righted and lifted by cranes in the Yangtze River in Jianli county in southern China's Hubei province Friday June 5, 2015. The smashed up white-and-blue Eastern Star emerged from gray waters of the Yangtze River on Friday as Chinese disaster teams raised the capsized ship with cranes to better search for hundreds still missing. AP PHOTO

Paramilitary policemen in white overalls wait to recover bodies from the Eastern Star after it is righted and lifted by cranes in the Yangtze River in Jianli county in southern China’s Hubei province Friday June 5, 2015. The smashed up white-and-blue Eastern Star emerged from gray waters of the Yangtze River on Friday as Chinese disaster teams raised the capsized ship with cranes to better search for hundreds still missing. AP PHOTO

JIANLI, China— The death toll in the Eastern Star capsizing rose to 331 on Saturday as disaster teams searched the now-upright ship for more bodies, making it China’s deadliest boat disaster in nearly seven decades.

Authorities have attributed the overturning of the cruise boat in the Yangtze River late Monday to sudden, severe winds, but also have placed the surviving captain and his first engineer under police custody.

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Passengers’ relatives have raised questions about whether the ship should have continued its cruise after the storm started in a section of Hubei province and despite a weather warning earlier in the evening.

READ: 65 dead in capsized Chinese ship, with more than 370 missing

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State media outlets said hundreds more bodies were found overnight and Saturday, bringing the death toll to 331.

The state broadcaster CCTV and the official Xinhua News Agency earlier Saturday morning put the death toll at 345, but they both later revised the number downward to 331.

The boat had more than 450 people aboard, many of them elderly tourists, for a cruise from Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing.

READ: Ship carrying over 400 people sinks in China’s Yangtze–state media

Fourteen people survived, including three pulled out by divers from air pockets in the overturned hull on Tuesday.

Disaster teams put chains around the hull and used cranes to roll the banged-up, white and blue boat upright and then gradually lift it out of the gray currents of the Yangtze on Friday.

China’s deadliest maritime disaster in recent decades was the Dashun ferry, which caught fire and capsized off Shandong province in November 1999, killing about 280.

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The Eastern Star disaster could become the country’s worst since the sinking of the SS Kiangya off Shanghai in 1948, which is believed to have killed anywhere from 2,750 to nearly 4,000 people.

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TAGS: China, Death Toll, disaster, ship sinking, sunken ferry, sunken ship, tragedy, Yangtze River
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