Shock and questions over Yangtze ship disaster

Rescuers help a woman to safety from the upturned boat (2 June 2015) Image copyright AP
Image caption Only a handful of people have been pulled to safety from the ship so far

Media outlets in China are in a state of shock as they scramble for latest information on the capsized passenger ship on the Yangtze River.

At least five people have died and hundreds are still missing from the Eastern Star, which was carrying 458 people.

The ship sank in the Damazhou section of the Yangtze in Jianli county, Hubei, at about 21:30 local time on Monday evening (13:30 GMT).

Many questions

While most papers have highlighted the quick start of the rescue operation, a commentary in the China.com raises questions over the responsibilities of the relevant departments.

It asks why the meteorological department did not alert the ship about weather change and why the marine traffic department did not take preventive measures to block dangerous waterways in the river.

The article also wonders if the crew shirked their responsibilities and failed to respond to the crisis appropriately.

"The Eastern Star is a huge ship but it sank in a short time. Was the design of the ship faulty, and was it fully equipped with crisis response measures?" it asks, hoping that "all levels in the local government will act in a serious, responsible and speedy manner".

Another article in the Tencent web portal, however, urges readers to avoid blaming the captain who has been saved. It notes that this incident is different from South Korea' Sewol ferry disaster in March last year, where the captain had abandoned the ship.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Up to 1,000 policemen have reportedly joined the rescue operations

"The ship sunk and everyone was immersed in the water. Rescuers can't discriminate, so it was impossible for them to not save the captain when they saw him," says the article.

An article in the Hubei-based Jingchu Net, which has been reprinted in the People's Daily online, however, urges the public to focus on the rescue work and avoid criticising authorities at this stage.

"Right now there are many inappropriate voices. Not surprising, at this crucial moment, many netizens are being a hindrance, focusing their attention on whom to blame," it says.

Yuan Shan, a member of the non-governmental Lantian Rescue Team, tells The Paper, a Shanghai-based news portal, that the search and rescue operation is more challenging than that of the Sewol.

"The water current is turbulent and the ship is far away from the harbour," says the expert.

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