Many feared dead in China ferry accident

Rescue teams were struggling in thick fog on Thursday to find survivors after a passenger ship and a freighter collided on China's Yangtze River, leaving at least 90 people missing, state press and local officials said.

    Around a dozen were rescued by
    local fishermen, but up to 90
    are feared dead

    The accident happened near Peilinglun city, 167 miles from Yichang, the location of the Three Gorges Dam, the China News Service said.
      
    The passenger ship ‘Peazhou’ is believed to have been carrying at least 100 people when it sank. Only 13 passengers have so far been rescued.

    An official at the Fuling Jianglong Shipping Co said its freighter was empty at the time of the accident. Police have detained the crew for questioning, according to the Xinhua news agency.

    Survivors
      
    "What we know is that 13 have so far been rescued and three bodies have been found," said local journalist Wen Cui, adding that it was impossible to know how many might have drowned or been swept away as there was no record of passenger numbers.

    "The ship had stopped at least three or four times on its journey so no one knows who got on and who got off."

    Two local hospitals confirmed that 10 injured people had so far been admitted.
      
    "We have received nine people from the accident so far," said Dr Zhang Yi from the Lingshi Hospital. "They are all in a stable condition."
      
    The Central Hospital of Fuling city said it had so far treated one injured person. "She told me she swam to the shore," said one doctor.
         
    Ships should not have sailed
         
    Local officials said the area was shrouded in think fog at the time of the collision and the boats should not have been on the river. 
      

    Unclear as to whether recent
    changes to the rivers flow near
    the Three Gorges played a role

    "At the time of the collision there was heavy fog. Both boats were violating regulations because according to regulations boats cannot leave port in heavy fog," an official surnamed Cui from the Changjiang Chongqing navigational channel bureau said.
            
    The accident occurred 300 miles upstream from the Three Gorges dam, the world's largest hydro-electric project, where sluice gates were closed early this month to begin forming a massive reservoir.

    It is not clear if the shutting of the sluice gates on the 185-meter dam earlier this month played any part in the collision although reports have said navigation on long stretches of the river have become next to impossible because of the project.
      
    Boat collisions are common on the wide and fast-flowing river, which runs 6,300 km  from western China to the sea near the eastern city of Shanghai.
       
    It is plied heavily by vessels transporting goods between the developing west and the richer east coast, passing through a basin that is home to more than 350 million people.
       
    Last year, more than 70 were killed in another ferry collision in Chongqing, the Channel Bureau official said. In 1999, a ferry caught fire and sank in stormy seas off the coast of Shandong province, killing 282 people.


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