Beijing: Seven people were confirmed dead, 14 people rescued and over 430 still missing more than 24 hours after a passenger ship carrying 456 people capsized in China's Yangtze river, authorities said on Tuesday.
Rescuers said there could be more survivors in the upturned wreckage, but strong winds and heavy rain were hampering rescue efforts. More than 430 people are still missing, according to Xinhua.
The Eastern Star sank "within one or two minutes" of being caught in a tornado in Jianli in Hubei province on Monday night, according to the ship's captain and chief engineer, who both survived the accident.
The Changjiang (Yangtze) River Administration of Navigational Affairs, under the ministry of transport, said that as of 9 p.m. (local time), 12 people had been rescued from the water, and another two were rescued from the wreckage.
Divers were combing the compartments for survivors, while the search on the river expanded to 150 km downstream of the site and would continue to 220 km, said Li Jiang, vice head of the administration.
A team of 4,000, including police, firefighters and navy personnel, were involved in the rescue mission.
Carrying mostly elderly tourists, the ship left the Nanjing on May 28 for Chongqing municipality on the upper reaches of China's longest river.
The ministry of transport said there were 456 people onboard, including 405 passengers, 46 crew and five tour guides.
Most of the passengers were from Shanghai and its neighbouring province Jiangsu, aged between 3 and 83. The majority were in their 60s and 70s.
The ship's captain and chief engineer are in police custody.
Chinese President Xi Jinping despatched a State Council work team to the site to guide the search and rescue work, and ordered all-out efforts.
Premier Li Keqiang, who was at the scene, asked rescuers to seize every second, battle fatigue and challenge the extremes.
At about noon, a 65-year-old woman was able to swim out of the wreckage after divers gave her breathing apparatus.
A 21-year-old man was found trapped in a small compartment. He was also given diving apparatus and swam out by himself at about 3 p.m.
The Three Gorges Dam, located up-stream from the site of the accident, has limited water flow to counteract the rising water level caused by the persistent rain.
The divers said ongoing rescue efforts had been complicated by the intricate layout of the vessel, as well as adverse weather condition.
A 500-tonne salvage vessel had arrived at the site, and another one of same size is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday morning.
The 76.5-metre ship could carry up to 534 people.