Hundreds missing, many elderly tourists, after ship capsizes on China's Yangtze River

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Rescuers searched on Tuesday for more than 400 people, many of them elderly Chinese tourists, missing after a cruise boat was hit by a freak tornado and capsized on the Yangtze River in what may become China's worst shipping disaster in nearly 70 years.

Battling bad weather, divers and other rescue workers pulled five people they found trapped in the upturned hull of the four-deck Eastern Star, a small fraction of the 458 people state media said were on board when the ship capsized on Monday night.

Rescue operations appeared extended late into Tuesday night with paramilitary vehicles, dozens of police and soldiers as well as medical and meteorological trucks surrounding the site.

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Boat sinks in China with 450 people aboard
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Hundreds missing, many elderly tourists, after ship capsizes on China's Yangtze River
JINGZHOU, CHINA - JUNE 05: (CHINA OUT) Rescuers work to raise the capsized ship Dongfangzhixing in the Yangtze River on June 5, 2015 in Jingzhou, China. Fourteen people have been rescued and 331 are confirmed dead after a passenger ship named Dongfangzhixing (Eastern Star) carrying 458 people sank in the Jianli (Hubei Province) section of the Yangtze River on Monday. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
MIANYANG, CHINA - JUNE 07: (CHINA OUT) People light candles to mourn victims onboard Chinese cruise Eastern Star near Fujiang River on June 7, 2015 in Mianyang, Sichuan Province of China. The death toll of the capsized cruise Eastern Star reached 406 on Sunday, leaving 36 still missing and 14 survived. Sunday marks the seventh day since the cruise sunk and it is a key date to mourn the dead according to Chinese tradition. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
LIAOCHENG, CHINA - JUNE 07: (CHINA OUT) Students from Liaocheng University light candles to mourn victims onboard Chinese cruise Eastern Star at Liaocheng University on June 7, 2015 in Liaocheng, Shandong Province of China. The death toll of the capsized cruise Eastern Star reached 406 on Sunday, leaving 36 still missing and 14 survived. Sunday marks the seventh day since the cruise sunk and it is a key date to mourn the dead according to Chinese tradition. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
JINGZHOU, CHINA - JUNE 07: (CHINA OUT) Rescue workers attend a moment of silence for three minutes at a ceremony to mark the seventh day since the Eastern Star went down in the Jianli section of Yangtze River on June 7, 2015 in Jianli County of Jingzhou, Hubei Province of China. The death toll of the capsized cruise Eastern Star reached 406 on Sunday, leaving 36 still missing and 14 survived. Sunday marks the seventh day since the cruise sunk and it is a key date to mourn the dead according to Chinese tradition. (Photo by Chen Zhuo/Yangtze River Daily/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
MIANYANG, CHINA - JUNE 07: (CHINA OUT) People light candles to mourn victims onboard Chinese cruise Eastern Star near Fujiang River on June 7, 2015 in Mianyang, Sichuan Province of China. The death toll of the capsized cruise Eastern Star reached 406 on Sunday, leaving 36 still missing and 14 survived. Sunday marks the seventh day since the cruise sunk and it is a key date to mourn the dead according to Chinese tradition. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
JINGZHOU, CHINA - JUNE 07: (CHINA OUT) Rescue workers attend a moment of silence for three minutes at a ceremony to mark the seventh day since the Eastern Star went down in the Jianli section of Yangtze River on June 7, 2015 in Jianli County of Jingzhou, Hubei Province of China. The death toll of the capsized cruise Eastern Star reached 406 on Sunday, leaving 36 still missing and 14 survived. Sunday marks the seventh day since the cruise sunk and it is a key date to mourn the dead according to Chinese tradition. (Photo by Chen Zhuo/Yangtze River Daily/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
JINGZHOU, CHINA - JUNE 05: (CHINA OUT) Rescuers work to raise the capsized ship Dongfangzhixing in the Yangtze River on June 5, 2015 in Jingzhou, China. Fourteen people have been rescued and 331 are confirmed dead after a passenger ship named Dongfangzhixing (Eastern Star) carrying 458 people sank in the Jianli (Hubei Province) section of the Yangtze River on Monday. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Rescuers work on the raised capsized ship Eastern Star on the Yangtze River in Jianli county of southern China’s Hubei province Sunday, June 7, 2015. China's state broadcaster reports the death toll from the cruise ship disaster has risen above 400, as teams expand the search of the Yangtze River for dozens more missing in China's deadliest maritime disaster in nearly seven decades. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Wang Hua, whoes parents were on the capsized ship Eastern Star, grieves during an interview by foreign journalists organized by government officials in Jianli county of southern China’s Hubei province Sunday, June 7, 2015. Frequently breaking down in tears, Wang said she’d yet to tell her 9-year-old son about the deaths of his grandparents, with whom he was extremely close. China's state broadcaster reports the death toll from a cruise ship disaster has risen above 400, as teams expand the search of the Yangtze River for dozens more missing in China's deadliest maritime disaster in nearly seven decades. (AP Photo/Hélène Franchineau)
Rescuers bow during a commemoration service near the raised ship Eastern Star on the Yangtze River in Jianli county of southern China’s Hubei province Sunday, June 7, 2015. China's state broadcaster reports the death toll from the cruise ship disaster has risen above 400, as teams expand the search of the Yangtze River for dozens more missing in China's deadliest maritime disaster in nearly seven decades. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Medical workers carry the body of a victim out from the capsized ship Eastern Star after being lifted by cranes on the Yangtze River in Jianli county of southern China’s Hubei province, as seen from across the river from Huarong county of southern China’s Hunan province, Friday, June 5, 2015. The Eastern Star's top-deck cabins with smashed blue roofs jutted out of gray water Friday after Chinese disaster teams righted the capsized river cruiser to ease the search for people still missing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Map locates the Yangtze River route between Nanjing and Chongqing.; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;
Rescue workers look at the sunken passenger ship as it is lifted by cranes in the Yangtze river in Jianli in China's Hubei province on June 5, 2015. Relatives of passengers missing after a Chinese cruise ship capsized expressed agony and anger after an official admitted there is no hope of finding more survivors. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
People gather at the embankment watch the rescue operation of a capsized ship passengers in the Yangtze River, in Dongshanzhen town in Hunan province, China Thursday, June 4, 2015. Rescuers cut three holes into the overturned hull of the river cruise ship in unsuccessful attempts to find more survivors Thursday. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Medical workers make preparations near the capsized Eastern Star ship, as it is lifted by cranes on the Yangtze River in Jianli county of southern China’s Hubei province, as seen from across the river from Huarong county of southern China’s Hunan province, Friday, June 5, 2015. The Eastern Star's top-deck cabins with smashed blue roofs jutted out of gray water Friday after Chinese disaster teams righted the capsized river cruiser to ease the search for people still missing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Rescue workers look at the sunken passenger ship being lifted by cranes in the Yangtze river in Jianli in China's Hubei province on June 5, 2015. Relatives of passengers missing after a Chinese cruise ship capsized expressed agony and anger after an official admitted there is no hope of finding more survivors. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
A foot of a dead body (bottom-C-L) is seen inside the sunken passenger ship as it is lifted by cranes in the Yangtze river in Jianli in China's Hubei province on June 5, 2015. Relatives of passengers missing after a Chinese cruise ship capsized expressed agony and anger after an official admitted there is no hope of finding more survivors. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue workers rest next to empty stretchers on the river bank next to the turned around capsized passenger ship as it is lifted by cranes in the Yangtze river in Jianli in China's Hubei province on June 5, 2015. Relatives of passengers missing after a Chinese cruise ship capsized expressed agony and anger after an official admitted there is no hope of finding more survivors. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 3, 2015 shows rescuers carrying the bodies of the victims of the capsized Chinese cruise ship walking on the riverbank in Jianli, central China's Hubei province. Relatives of more than 400 people missing after the cruise ship 'Eastern Star' capsized on China's Yangtze river gathered at the disaster site on June 4, as rescuers breached the hull in a last-ditch search for more than 400 people believed trapped inside. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 3, 2015 shows rescuers carrying the bodies of the victims of the capsized Chinese cruise ship walking on the riverbank in Jianli, central China's Hubei province. Relatives of more than 400 people missing after the cruise ship 'Eastern Star' capsized on China's Yangtze river gathered at the disaster site on June 4, as rescuers breached the hull in a last-ditch search for more than 400 people believed trapped inside. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
ZHUJI, CHINA - JUNE 03: (CHINA OUT) Students light candles and pray for victims of the capsized ship Dongfangzhixing at a high school on June 3, 2015 in Zhuji, China. Fourteen people have been rescued and seven are confirmed dead after a passenger ship named Dongfangzhixing (Eastern Star) carrying 458 people sank in the Jianli (Hubei Province) section of the Yangtze River on Monday. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 3, 2015 shows rescuers carrying the body of a recovered victim of the capsized Chinese cruise ship in Jianli, central China's Hubei province. Relatives of more than 400 people missing after the cruise ship 'Eastern Star' capsized on China's Yangtze river gathered at the disaster site on June 4, as rescuers breached the hull in a last-ditch search for more than 400 people believed trapped inside. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 3, 2015 shows a relative (R) of a passenger - missing after a Chinese cruise ship capsized on the Yangtze river - wiping away tears as relatives gather at the disaster site in Jianli, in central China's Hubei province. Relatives of more than 400 people missing after the cruise ship 'Eastern Star' capsized on China's Yangtze river gathered at the disaster site on June 4, as rescuers breached the hull in a last-ditch search for more than 400 people believed trapped inside. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 3, 2015 shows two relatives looking on towards the disaster site of the sank vessel 'Eastern Star' in Jianli, central China's Hubei province. Relatives of more than 400 people missing after the cruise ship 'Eastern Star' capsized on China's Yangtze river gathered at the disaster site on June 4, as rescuers breached the hull in a last-ditch search for more than 400 people believed trapped inside. AFP PHOTO CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
JINGZHOU, CHINA - JUNE 02: (CHINA OUT) Rescuers search for survivors from the capsized ship Dongfangzhixing in the Yangtze River on June 2, 2015 in Nanjing, China. A passenger ship named Dongfangzhixing (Eastern Star) carrying 458 people, including 406 Chinese passengers, 5 travel agency workers and 47 crew members aboard, according to the administration, sank at around 9:28 p.m. on Monday in the Jianli (Hubei Province) section of the Yangtze River. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)
JINGZHOU, CHINA - JUNE 02: (CHINA OUT) Rescuers search for survivors from the capsized ship Dongfangzhixing in the Yangtze River on June 2, 2015 in Jingzhou, China. A passenger ship named Dongfangzhixing (Eastern Star) carrying 458 people, including 406 Chinese passengers, 5 travel agency workers and 47 crew members aboard, according to the administration, sank at around 9:28 p.m. on Monday in the Jianli (Hubei Province) section of the Yangtze River. According to officials 15 people have been rescued with hundreds still missing. The captain and the chief engineer both survived and claimed that the ship sank quickly after being caught in a cyclone. Chinese President Xijinping has ordered a work team of the State Council to rush to the site to guide search and rescue work and rescue teams of Hubei, Chongqing and relevant parties to carry out all-search efforts and properly handle the aftermath. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)
JINGZHOU, CHINA - JUNE 03: (CHINA OUT) Rescuers carry victims' bodies from the capsized ship Dongfangzhixing in the Yangtze River on June 3, 2015 in Jingzhou, China. Fourteen people have been rescued and seven are confirmed dead after a passenger ship named Dongfangzhixing (Eastern Star) carrying 458 people sank in the Jianli (Hubei Province) section of the Yangtze River on Monday. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Chinese soldiers stand as rescuers conduct a search and rescue operation on the capsized ship, center, on the Yangtze River in central China's Hubei province Wednesday, June 3, 2015. Hopes dimmed Wednesday for rescuing more than 400 people still trapped in a capsized river cruise ship that overturned in stormy weather, as hundreds of rescuers searched the Yangtze River site in what could become the deadliest Chinese maritime accident in decades. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Villagers watch as Chinese paramilitary policemen stand guard on a road to prevent people from getting near rescue efforts for the capsized ship on the Yangtze River in central China's Hubei province, Wednesday, June 3, 2015. The capsizing late Monday of the multi-decked Eastern Star in the Yangtze River in southern China is on track to become the country's deadliest maritime disaster in seven decades. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Chinese soldiers march along the embankment past police officers, at center, stopping journalists from getting near to a command center which has been set up for rescue operations of a capsized cruise ship on the Yangtze River in Jianli in central China's Hubei province, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Divers on Tuesday pulled several survivors from inside the capsized cruise ship and searched for other survivors, state media said, giving some small hope to an apparently massive tragedy. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Rescue personnel move the remains of victims who were travelling on the capsized passenger ship Dongfangzhixing or 'Eastern Star' onto a boat in the Yangtze river at Jianli in China's Hubei province on June 3, 2015. Relatives of more than 400 people missing after a cruise ship capsized on China's Yangtze river were hoping for a 'miracle' on June 3, as authorities said they were racing against time to find any survivors. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese soldiers ride their boats to the embankment after their search and rescue operation near a capsized cruise ship on the Yangtze River in Jianli in central China's Hubei province, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Divers on Tuesday pulled several survivors from inside the capsized cruise ship and searched for other survivors, state media said, giving some small hope to an apparently massive tragedy. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Rescuers rest at a command center which has been set up for rescue operations of a capsized cruise ship on the Yangtze River in Jianli, in central China's Hubei province, Wednesday, June 3, 2015. The capsizing late Monday of the multi-decked Eastern Star in the Yangtze River in southern China is on track to become the country's deadliest maritime disaster in seven decades. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
An elderly survivor (C) is carried onto the river bank after being rescued from the Dongfangzhixing or 'Eastern Star' vessel which sank in the Yangtze river in Jianli, central China's Hubei province on June 2, 2015. Divers raced to find survivors on June 2 after a Chinese ship sank with more than 450 mainly elderly people in the storm-tossed Yangtze river, raising hopes more people can be found alive. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese soldiers carry their boat to the embankment after their search and rescue operation near a capsized cruise ship on the Yangtze River in Jianli in central China's Hubei province, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Divers on Tuesday pulled several survivors from inside the capsized cruise ship and searched for other survivors, state media said, giving some small hope to an apparently massive tragedy. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Chinese paramilitary policemen block a road leading to a command center set up for rescue operations of a capsized cruise ship on the Yangtze River in Jianli in central China's Hubei province, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Divers on Tuesday pulled several survivors from inside the capsized cruise ship and searched for other survivors, state media said, giving some small hope to an apparently massive tragedy. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Relatives of Shanghai passengers on board a cruise ship that capsized in central China, attempt to storm a government office to demand for action after the tourist agency which organized the tour failed to help them, in Shanghai, China, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Such quick outrage mirrors the responses of victims' relatives from other recent disasters such as last year’s disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which carried hundreds of Chinese travelers when it vanished from radars. (AP Photo)
A survivor (C) is rescued by divers from the Dongfangzhixing or 'Eastern Star' vessel which sank in the Yangtze river in Jianli, central China's Hubei province on June 2, 2015. Divers raced to find survivors on June 2 after a Chinese ship sank with more than 450 mainly elderly people in the storm-tossed Yangtze river, raising hopes more people can be found alive. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue teams search for survivors near the Dongfangzhixing or 'Eastern Star' vessel which sank in the Yangtze river in Jianli, central China's Hubei province on June 2, 2015. Divers raced to find survivors on June 2 after a Chinese ship sank with more than 450 mainly elderly people in the storm-tossed Yangtze river, raising hopes more people can be found alive. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
An elderly passenger (C) is escorted to the river bank after being rescued from the Dongfangzhixing or 'Eastern Star' vessel which sank in the Yangtze river in Jianli, central China's Hubei province on June 2, 2015. Divers raced to find survivors on June 2 after a Chinese ship sank with more than 450 mainly elderly people in the storm-tossed Yangtze river, raising hopes more people can be found alive. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of missing passengers who were on a ship which sank in the powerful Yangtze river the night before reacts after hearing news of the sinking outside a travel agency in Shanghai on June 2, 2015. China mounted a rescue operation on June 2 after the ship which was reportedly carrying more than 450 people sank in the powerful Yangtze river after being hit by stormy weather. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A relatives (R) of missing passengers who were on a ship which sank in the powerful Yangtze river the night before cries as he accepts an interview from a journalist outside a travel agency in Shanghai on June 2, 2015. China mounted a rescue operation on June 2 after the ship which was reportedly carrying more than 450 people sank in the powerful Yangtze river after being hit by stormy weather. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of passengers on board the Dongfangzhixing or 'Eastern Star' which sank en route from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing, mourn as they wait for information at a hotel in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu province on June 2, 2015. Divers racing to find survivors rescued a 65-year-old woman on June 2 after a Chinese ship sank with more than 450 mainly elderly people in the storm-tossed Yangtze river, raising hopes more people can be found alive. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of missing passengers who were on a ship which sank in the powerful Yangtze river the night before reacts after hearing news of the sinking outside a travel agency in Shanghai on June 2, 2015. China mounted a rescue operation on June 2 after the ship which was reportedly carrying more than 450 people sank in the powerful Yangtze river after being hit by stormy weather. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of missing passengers who were on a ship which sank in the powerful Yangtze river the night before react after hearing news of the sinking outside a travel agency in Shanghai on June 2, 2015. China mounted a rescue operation on June 2 after the ship which was reportedly carrying more than 450 people sank in the powerful Yangtze river after being hit by stormy weather. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of passengers on board the Dongfangzhixing or 'Eastern Star' which sank en route from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing, react as they wait for information at a hotel in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu province on June 2, 2015. Divers racing to find survivors rescued a 65-year-old woman on June 2 after a Chinese ship sank with more than 450 mainly elderly people in the storm-tossed Yangtze river, raising hopes more people can be found alive. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese rescue boats are seen alongside a capsized passenger ship carrying more than 450 people which sunk in the Yangtze river, triggering a rescue effort hampered by strong winds and heavy rain off Jianli in China's Hubei province on June 2, 2015. The ship named Dongfangzhixing, or 'Eastern Star', was headed from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank in the Jianli section of the river. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, rescuers save a survivor, center, from the overturned passenger ship in the Jianli section of the Yangtze River in central China's Hubei Province Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Rescuers pulled several survivors to safety after hearing cries for help Tuesday from inside a capsized cruise ship that went down overnight in a storm on China's Yangtze River, state broadcaster CCTV said. (Cheng Min/Xinhua via AP)
People wait at Oriental Shipping Company in Chongqing for their relatives who took passenger ship Dongfangzhixing (Eastern Star) for Chongqing and the ship sank on Monday night in Jianli section of the Yangtze River on June 2, 2015 in Chongqing, China. A passenger ship named Dongfangzhixing (Eastern Star) carrying 458 people, including 406 Chinese passengers, 5 travel agency workers and 47 crew members aboard, according to the administration, sank at around 9:28 p.m. on Monday in the Jianli (Hubei Province) section of the Yangtze River. The ship headed for Chongqing from Nanjing and the captain and the chief engineer in thirty five people have been rescued and both claimed that the ship sank quickly after being attacked by cyclone. Chinese President Xijinping has ordered a work team of the State Council to rush to the site to guide search and rescue work, and rescue teams of Hubei, Chongqing and relevant parties to carry out all-search efforts and properly handle the aftermath. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Chinese villagers watch as rescue teams head out to search for survivors of a passenger ship carrying more than 450 people which sunk in the Yangtze river, triggering a rescue effort hampered by strong winds and heavy rain off Jianli in China's Hubei province on June 2, 2015. The ship named Dongfangzhixing, or 'Eastern Star', was headed from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank in the Jianli section of the river.  (Photo credit: TR/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese rescue boats are seen alongside a capsized passenger ship carrying more than 450 people which sunk in the Yangtze river, triggering a rescue effort hampered by strong winds and heavy rain off Jianli in China's Hubei province on June 2, 2015. The ship named Dongfangzhixing, or 'Eastern Star', was headed from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank in the Jianli section of the river. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese rescue teams head out to search for survivors of a passenger ship carrying more than 450 people which sunk in the Yangtze river, triggering a rescue effort hampered by strong winds and heavy rain off Jianli in China's Hubei province on June 2, 2015. The ship named Dongfangzhixing, or 'Eastern Star', was headed from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank in the Jianli section of the river. (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A Chinese rescue team head out to search for survivors of a passenger ship carrying more than 450 people which sunk in the Yangtze river, triggering a rescue effort hampered by strong winds and heavy rain off Jianli in China's Hubei province on June 2, 2015. The ship named Dongfangzhixing, or 'Eastern Star', was headed from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank in the Jianli section of the river. (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A Chinese rescue team head out to search for survivors of a passenger ship carrying more than 450 people which sunk in the Yangtze river, triggering a rescue effort hampered by strong winds and heavy rain off Jianli in China's Hubei province on June 2, 2015. The ship named Dongfangzhixing, or 'Eastern Star', was headed from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank in the Jianli section of the river. (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Recovery and rescue crews attend the accident site where a ship carrying 458 people sank on Monday night in Jianli section of the Yangtze River on June 2, 2015 in Jingzhou, Hubei province of China. A passenger ship named Dongfangzhixing (Eastern Star) carrying 458 people, including 406 Chinese passengers, 5 travel agency workers and 47 crew members aboard, according to the administration, sank at around 9:28 p.m. on Monday in the Jianli (Hubei Province) section of the Yangtze River. The captain and the chief engineer in eight people have been rescued and both claimed that the ship sank quickly after being attacked by cyclone. Chinese President Xijinping has ordered a work team of the State Council to rush to the site to guide search and rescue work, and rescue teams of Hubei, Chongqing and relevant parties to carry out all-search efforts and properly handle the aftermath. (Photo by Chen Zhuo/Yangzi River Daily/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Rescue workers prepare to head out on boats on the Yangtze River to search for missing passengers after a ship capsized in central China's Hubei province Tuesday June 2, 2015. The passenger ship carrying more than 450 people sank overnight in the Yangtze River during a storm in southern China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. (Chinatopix Via AP) 

Rescue workers prepare to head out on boats on the Yangtze River to search for missing passengers after a ship capsized in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, June 2, 2015. The passenger ship carrying more than 450 people sank overnight in the Yangtze River during a storm in southern China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. (Chinatopix Via AP) 

Rescue workers prepare to head out on boats on the Yangtze River to search for missing passengers after a ship capsized in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, June 2, 2015. The passenger ship carrying more than 450 people sank overnight in the Yangtze River during a storm in southern China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. (Chinatopix Via AP)
Rescue workers prepare to head out on boats on the Yangtze River to search for missing passengers after a ship capsized in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, June 2, 2015. The passenger ship carrying more than 450 people sank overnight in the Yangtze River during a storm in southern China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. (Chinatopix Via AP) 
Recovery and rescue crews attend the accident site where a ship carrying 458 people sank on Monday night in Jianli section of the Yangtze River on June 2, 2015 in Jingzhou, Hubei province of China. A passenger ship named Dongfangzhixing (Eastern Star) carrying 458 people, including 406 Chinese passengers, 5 travel agency workers and 47 crew members aboard, according to the administration, sank at around 9:28 p.m. on Monday in the Jianli (Hubei Province) section of the Yangtze River. The captain and the chief engineer in eight people have been rescued and both claimed that the ship sank quickly after being attacked by cyclone. Chinese President Xijinping has ordered a work team of the State Council to rush to the site to guide search and rescue work, and rescue teams of Hubei, Chongqing and relevant parties to carry out all-search efforts and properly handle the aftermath. (Photo by Chen Zhuo/Yangzi River Daily/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Map locates the Yangtze River route between Nanjing and Chongqing.
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Soldiers set up periodic roadblocks along a muddy path, allowing only official vehicles into the area in the central province of Hubei.

At the main hospital in the county of Jianli, police guarded the door of a room where survivors were being treated and blocked reporters from trying to enter. Three survivors were placed in the general ward while the rest were in intensive care, according to a nurse.

Distraught relatives of some of the passengers scuffled with officials in the city of Shanghai, where many of those on board had booked their trips, angry about what they said was a lack of information.

Dozens of rescue boats battled wind and rain enveloping the southern section of Asia's longest river to reach the ship, which lay upturned in water some 15 meters (50 feet) deep.

Xinhua news agency said rescuers could hear people calling for help from inside the ship's hull and television showed rescuers cutting through it with an angle grinder.

One of the people pulled from the capsized boat was a 65-year-old woman. Divers fixed breathing equipment to her nose and mouth to bring her up from under the water.

About another dozen people had been rescued and six bodies recovered, Chinese media reported, leaving more than 430 people unaccounted for.

China's weather bureau said a tornado had buffeted the area where the boat was passing through, a freak occurrence in a country where twisters can happen but are not common.

The disaster could cause a higher toll than the sinking of a ferry in South Korea in April 2014 that killed 304 people, most of them children on a school trip.

China's People's Daily published a passenger manifest on its microblog and said those on board the Eastern Star ranged in age from three to more than 80.

Tour guide Zhang Hui, 43, told Xinhua that the boat sank very fast and he scrambled out a window in torrential rain, clutching a life vest as he could not swim.

"Wave after wave crashed over me; I swallowed a lot of water," Zhang said. He was unable to flag down passing boats and finally struggled ashore, clinging to a branch, as dawn broke.

President Xi Jinping had ordered that no efforts be spared in the rescue and Premier Li Keqiang went to the scene of the accident, Xinhua said.

About 60 family members gathered outside a travel agency in Shanghai and demanded information.

"I only found out about this on the television news while I was at work and I came here," said 35-year-old Wang Sheng, whose said his mother and father were on board. "I cried all the way here and here I can't find anyone, the door is locked."

CAPTAIN DETAINED BY POLICE

The ship's captain and the chief engineer, who were among the few to be rescued, had been detained by police for questioning, Xinhua said.

According to the Yangtze River navigation administration, the pair said the ship went down quickly after being caught in the tornado.

Xinhua said initial investigations had found the ship was not overloaded and it had enough life vests on board for its passengers. Those rescued were wearing life vests.

Among those on board were 406 tourists, many of them elderly, along with 47 crew members and five tour guides, according to the People's Daily.

State radio said the ship capsized in about two minutes and no distress call had been issued. Seven people swam to shore to raise the alarm, local media said.

Fishing boats were among the dozens of vessels helping in the search and rescue, Xinhua said, and more than 1,000 police with 40 inflatable boats had also been sent.

The Eastern Star, which has the capacity to carry more than 500 people, was heading to the southwestern city of Chongqing from Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province. It sank at around 9:28 p.m. in the Jianli section of the Yangtze.

Accidents of this magnitude are uncommon in China, where major rivers are used for tours and cruises. A tug sank on the Yangtze while undergoing sea trials in January, killing 22 of 25 people on board.

In the worst previous incident of its kind in China, the steamship Kiangya blew up on the Huangpu river in 1948, killing more than 1,000 people.

The Eastern Star is owned by the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation, which runs tours along the Three Gorges section of the Yangtze.

Wang Jianhua, its vice general manager, said the company had never suffered an incident of this magnitude. The official Hubei Daily said the company has been operating since 1981.

(Additional reporting by Sue-Lin Wong and Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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