More than 400 people are unaccounted for after a Chinese cruise ship sank on Monday because of unexpectedly turbulent weather. In the third day of rescue efforts, officials were holding on to hope for passengers.
China's state broadcaster CCTV reported on Wednesday that 18 bodies had been recovered from the sunken ship after only 14 people were rescued since the accident.
Thirteen Chinese navy divers have been going room to room in a search for more survivors, but 170 were expected to join the rescue mission on Wednesday. However, emergency response operations continue to face challenges.
"The river water where the accident happened is quite muddy and there is virtually no visibility," the vice director of the Transport Ministry's rescue department, Zhand Jianxin, said on CCTV.
"Divers can only rely on touch while submerging, searching and rescuing," Jianxin said, adding that the rescue operation was "difficult."
The Eastern Star cruise ship was traveling from the eastern city of Nanjing to southeastern Chongqing when a freak storm, reported as a cyclone with winds up to 130 kilometers per hour (80 mph), caused it to capsize. More than 450 people, mostly elderly tourists, were on board at the time of the accident.
The Yangtze River, third longest in the world, is a popular tourist destination, with travel agencies offering dayslong trips.
Meanwhile, China's government has pledged to continue search efforts to find survivors until no hope remains.
"As long as there is the slightest hope, we will make every effort and never give up," Jianxin said
"We will do everything we can to rescue everyone trapped in there, no matter [if] they're still alive or not, and we will treat them as our own families," Chen Soumin, Hubei military region commander, said at a press conference broadcast by CCTV.
The ship's captain and chief engineer, among the survivors, were detained and questioned by police.
ls/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)