Hundreds of people are 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 30 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, 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.
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) following reports on CCTV that three people had been confirmed alive inside the upturned ship.
The Yangtze River navigation administration said the ship was submerged and turned upside down after capsizing during a cyclone at Jianli in Hubei province.
Seven people swam to the shore and alerted police after the shipwreck, CCTV reported.
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.