Rainy weather and low visibility disrupted Tuesday’s efforts to rescue hundreds of passengers from a four-story ship that capsized overnight on China’s Yangtze River. The Eastern Star was carrying over 450 passengers, the majority of whom were elderly tourists, when what Reuters described as a “freak tornado” struck the vessel.
As of Tuesday evening local time, a small number of both survivors and bodies had been located; however, The New York Times reported that rescue divers are searching for people who may be trapped in the hull of the ship with limited access to air. The paper also noted that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had visited the site, “an indication of how seriously the ruling Communist Party regarded the accident.” The captain and the chief engineer have been detained.
The ship was traveling on a 930-mile route from Nanjing, a city in eastern China, to Chongqing in the southwestern part of the country.
Along the way, the ship was due to pass the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest dam, which the BBC described as “a place of pilgrimage in its own right and a powerful symbol of China's rising economic might, attracting about two million visitors a year.”
In addition to being a token of Chinese ascension, the $24-billon dam has also been a symbol of the costs of China’s ambition.