BEIJING (AFP) – Twenty-two people including eight foreigners have been confirmed dead after a tugboat sank on a trial voyage on the Yangtze, China’s longest river, state media reported Saturday.
The vessel was raised Saturday, 40 hours after it sank while undergoing testing with 25 people – including the eight foreigners – aboard in the eastern province of Jiangsu on Thursday afternoon, state news agency Xinhua said.
Three survivors were pulled out by rescuers, whose efforts were complicated by strong currents and icy temperatures.
Images posted on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, showed family members waiting in tears by the river.
The final body was retrieved on Saturday afternoon, maritime officials said. All those on board the 30-metre (100-foot) ship were male.
A Singapore foreign ministry spokesman told AFP on Friday that the vessel was registered in the city-state and four of its nationals were on board.
The Japanese and Indian consulates in Shanghai each confirmed to AFP that one of their nationals had also been on board.
Xinhua cited local authorities as saying two others on board were from Malaysia and Indonesia.
“Water entered the boat cabin very quickly, in less than 20 seconds it was completely filled with water,” survivor Wang Zhenkai told state television from his hospital bed.
Wang was accompanying a Japanese technician who was testing the engine of the ship, which reports said was made and outfitted in China.
He survived by clinging to a hydraulic pump and said he had grabbed the Japanese engineer, but their grasp was broken as the boat began to sink.
A photo carried by state media Friday showed only the bow and part of the hull of the metal ship floating above the waterline, with a salvage barge alongside.
The accident occurred on a stretch of the river that experiences extremely strong currents, between the cities of Jingjiang and Zhangjiagang, which is close to the Yangtze’s mouth near the commercial hub Shanghai.
The provincial government said the boat was undergoing trials without properly completing the required procedures and without first reporting the condition of the ship, as required by regulations.