Ferry death toll expected to reach 40 as hopes fade for the missing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 December, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 December, 2002, 12:00am

Twenty-nine people missing after a ferry collided with a barge on the Yangtze River are now feared dead, Chongqing officials say.

Police recovered three more bodies yesterday, pushing the death toll to 11.

The 250-seat passenger ferry sank two minutes after colliding with the barge on Wednesday morning in the section of the river between Changshou and Jiangnan.

A spokeswoman for the Changshou district party committee said: 'Chances of the missing people surviving are thin. However, we are still trying to recover more bodies.'

Eighteen school teachers and an infant are among those dead and missing.

The Chongqing government has deployed 20 police vessels to search for bodies within 20km of the accident scene.

Other passing ships have also been enlisted for the search of the river and its banks.

Only seven out of 47 people aboard the ferry survived. There were no casualties on the barge.

The Changshou district party committee spokeswoman said the survivors were all in good health. One of the survivors is a teacher at a local school.

'The weather was foggy on Wednesday, but not too rainy or windy. We are still investigating.'

The China News Service quoted two survivors, brothers Lin Shi-lu and Lin Shi-fu, as saying they were on deck when the ferry and the barge collided. Lin Shi-lu said the ferry started sinking seconds after the collision and he blacked out shortly after.

The teachers were on their way to Jiangnan Town No 2 elementary and secondary schools.

Classes were suspended after the accident, but resumed yesterday afternoon after substitute teachers were arranged.

Officials plan to recover the boats as part of the investigation into the collision.

Collisions occur frequently along the heavily congested Yangtze.