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Rescue Underway In China For Victims Of Capsized Ship


We are following a major disaster that is unfolding in China right now. Hundreds of people are missing after a cruise ship overturned on the Yangtze River. Many people could still be trapped inside that ship. This is happening in central China. NPR's Frank Langfitt is there and joins us on the line. And Frank, where exactly is this all happening and what's the latest?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: We're deep in Hubei Province, so we're very far from the coast along the Yangtze River. And I'm - right now, I'm in a small town not too far from where the boat is floating at the moment. More than 450 people were on board. So far, about 15 have been rescued. Some actually swam ashore last night local time when this happened. There were another six inside that divers were actually able to get to. They heard them yelling from inside and were able to pull them out. And they're continuing to try to rescue as many people as they can.

GREENE: And Frank, how did this happen?

LANGFITT: Well, it's really - it's a very strange case. The captain, who did get off the boat and has actually been detained by the authorities, he said they were hit by a cyclone. And the local weather station reported hurricane-force winds, which, again, is very unusual. We're very far inland. There was one survivor, who talked to Chinese State Media, who said the boat sank very quickly. There really wasn't much time for any - hardly anyone to escape. And when he hit the water, it was very cold. That's worth noting also that the boat actually was not overloaded. Its capacity is about 534, so that doesn't seem to have been a factor.

GREENE: And we mentioned cruise ship at the beginning, Frank. I mean, what kind of boat exactly is this?

LANGFITT: This is a classic boat that goes up the Yangtze River. It's a four-level boat; it's a sleep-aboard. Lots of people take it and lots of Chinese tourists enjoy it. And the group that was on this boat, most of them were retirees from eastern China between the ages of about 50 and 80.

GREENE: All right, hundreds of people still missing after a cruise-ship disaster on a river in central China. That's NPR's Frank Langfitt. Frank, thanks very much.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.
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