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Cruise ship righted on Yangtze, 400 or more feared dead

The capsized Chinese river cruise ship Eastern Star has been righted by large cranes on the Yangtze. China is facing what could be its worst shipping disaster in 70 years. So far, 97 bodies have been found.

Chinese CCTV state television showed the ship upright on Friday,

four days after it overturned in a storm

.

Just 14 people survived the disaster, including three extracted from air pockets by divers, and the captain of the 76-meter-long vessel.

Ministry spokesman Xu Chengguang said recovery teams would drain out water and then begin the task of identifying bodies.

China Yangtze Fluss Eastern Star Passagierschiff Bergung

Giant cranes helped turn the ship upright

He had told a press conference on Thursday - before the ship was turned upright - that authorities had concluded "there is no possibility of survival."

Media checks

Information and media access to the disaster site at Jianli, a riverside town, were being tightly controlled. Police monitored hundreds of relatives as they arrived.

Some expressed anger to visiting reporters on Friday before being interrupted or escorted away by officials.

University lecturer Xia Yunchen, whose older brother was missing, demanded that relatives be allowed to view loved ones before being cremated.

In past disasters, authorities have delivered ashes to the victims' families without letting them see them, according to the news agency Associated Press.

Another relative, identified as Gao, demanded an explanation as to why the shallow-draft boat, with numerous decks, cruised into Monday evening's storm while other ships had dropped anchor as reported by local media.

"Of course I am angry at the boat captain," Gao told the news agency AFP.

Captain in custody

The captain, identified by the China Daily newspaper as Zhang Shunwen, was taken into custody along with the ship's surviving first officer.

On board the Eastern Star had been 456 people, mostly tourists aged over 60.

China's deadliest previous disaster in recent decades involved the Dashun ferry. It caught fire and sank off Shandong province in 1999, claiming some 280 lives.

ipj/msh (AP, AFP, dpa)

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