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News

Chinese ship with more than 450 passengers sinks in Yangtze

A rescue operation has been launched after a ship carrying hundreds of passengers sank overnight in China's Yangtze River. Fifty boats were deployed for the search and rescue mission, for some 450 people on board.

State news agency Xinhua first reported the ship sinking early on Tuesday.

There were at least 406 Chinese passengers on board, along with five travel agency employees and 47 crew members. Most of the passengers of the "Eastern Star" cruise ship were between 50 and 80 years old.

Xinhua, citing the Yangtze River Navigation Administration, said that 10 people had been rescued so far, though severe wind and fog had hampered the initial recovery of those who had been on board. Among those rescued were the captain and chief engineer, who both blamed the incident on a cyclone.

More than 50 boats and 3,000 people were deployed for the search and rescue efforts.

Some passengers may be trapped

State broadcaster CCTV said that one person is confirmed to have died, and that search teams heard sounds coming from within the partially submerged vessel, indicating that some passengers may have been trapped on lower levels of the four-storey ship.

The boat was traveling from Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank at around 9:30 p.m. local time in Hubei Province, where the massive Three Gorges Dam straddles the Yangtze. The "Eastern Star" only took around two minutes to sink after it began taking on water.

CCTV announced that China's Premier Li Keqiang was traveling to the site of the accident along with his deputy Ma Kai, while President Xi Jinping issued an order for "all out rescue efforts."

Twenty-two people, including eight foreigners, were killed on the river earlier this year when a tugboat met a similar fate.

es/cmk (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)