Civilians help in Yangtze ship rescue

Updated: 2015-06-03 18:49


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YUEYANG, Hunan - Fishermen, outdoors experts and environmental groups have been combing waters and banks near a capsized Chinese ship in an attempt to find and rescue more than 400 missing passengers.

The civilian rescuers, some only with homemade equipment, are battling waves, gales and downpours after a cruise ship capsized in stormy weather Monday night on the Yangtze River.

Feng Kaimin, a villager in Guangxinzhou Town, Yueyang City, heard a call for help from the roaring Yangtze River at 12:30 am Tuesday when he was fixing a stone-carrying belt.

He walked down the bank, confirming that a person was in the river. He then called a friend and they boarded a small boat.

Feng, a skilled fisherman, navigated through the heavy rain while gales caused waves to batter the boat. They found Jiang Geng, a passenger who jumped out of the Eastern Star cruise ship seconds before it was knocked down by a tornado.

"He was very excited to see us. He was very tired," Feng said.

Feng and his friend pulled Jiang out of the water and turned the boat back.

"The wind was too strong. It took us more than two hours to return," Feng said. "We all ran out of strength when we got back to shore."

Jing was soon sent to a local hospital and he is in stable condition.

Six volunteers with the Yueyang East Dongting Environmental Protection Association have been on site near the capsized ship since the accident.

They have been scouring nearby waters for any possible survivors in their speedboat, despite strong waves.

"We can't join the diving rescue. But we are trying our best to search for survivors in other areas," said Chen Hanbo, one of the volunteers.

More than 100 members of Blue Sky Rescue, a civilian group made up of outdoors experts, also joined the rescue.

The civilian rescuers managed to pull three bodies out of the water using professional equipment.

The rescue team, comprised of professional divers and maritime experts, pledged that they will not stop the search.

Civilian ships that pass through nearby waters are also joining the rescue effort.