A reported “tornado” on the Yangtze has been mentioned as a possible reason for the deadly accident involving the ship.
Hundreds of people remain missing after a tourist ship carrying more than 450 people sank on the Yangtze River in central China.
Five bodies have been retrieved and at least 15 people rescued, including the captain and the ship’s chief engineer – who have both been detained – according to state media reports.
Hours after the incident, which occurred on Monday night local time, the People’s Daily reported that more passengers were still alive and inside the Eastern Star.
Images shown on state broadcaster CCTV showed rescuers lying on the upturned ship attempting to communicate with potential survivors inside.
People ALIVE: Rescuers hear response inside after knocking on the ship, according to Yangtze River navigation admin. pic.twitter.com/hn9u5wfEyg
— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) June 2, 2015
The China Daily newspaper reported that a woman in her 60s was pulled alive out of the water at 12.56pm local time (04:56 GMT) on Tuesday following reports on CCTV that three people had been confirmed alive inside the upturned ship.
Another man was later pulled alive from the water, the newspaper reported.
The Yangtze River navigation administration said the ship capsized during a “cyclone” at Jianli in Hubei province. Chinese meteorological officials have been tasked to study the weather conditions at the time of the accident.
Seven people swam to the shore and alerted police after the shipwreck, CCTV reported.
Search and rescue operation
State media also reported that more than 2,100 soldiers and policemen were taking part in search and rescue operations, which were complicated by strong winds and heavy rain. More than 150 ships were also involved.
Most of the passengers were said to be tourists aged between 50 and 80 years old, who were about to go to sleep as the vessel sank.
Xinhua said there were 405 Chinese passengers, five travel agency workers and 47 crew members on board the ship that was en route from Nanjing to Chongqing.
President Xi Jinping asked that no efforts be spared in search and rescue operations, and Premier Li Keqiang travelled to the area.
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Hong Kong, said the accident comes as more and more Chinese people are travelling within their own country.
“People take vacations more and trips along the Yangtze River are one of the more popular trips that people make,” our correspondent said.