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China suspends ferry firm's operations after disaster

Officials say the chance of finding more survivors is slim  

Thousands search for survivors

November 26, 1999
Web posted at: 6:35 p.m. HKT (1035 GMT)

BEIJING (CNN) -- The Chinese government has ordered a state-owned ferry company to suspend operations after one of its ships sank this week, killing more than 150 people, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

The Communications Ministry ordered Yanda Car Ferry Co. Ltd. to suspend operations, following its second loss in as many months, and to undergo "restructuring," Xinhua said. It did not say how long the suspension would last.

Authorities were trying to determine on Friday why so many people were lost when the ferry capsized off China's coast, as 10,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians continued combing the gale-lashed coast for survivors.

Official Chinese media reported on Friday that 22 people had been rescued, and at least 150 people had been killed in the shipwreck.

Authorities cautioned, however, that there may have been several dozen more people on the boat. Many travelers, they said, boarded the ship without buying tickets.

China tomorrow

VideoCNN's Rebecca MacKinnon reports on the shipwreck off China's coast resulting in the death of 290 people. (Nov.25)
Real 28K 80K
Windows Media 28K 80K

Snow, lashing winds and towering waves continued to hamper rescue efforts on Friday.

Some of the rescued people described being trapped in the ship's hold after it sank, and having to break windows to swim to safety. Others told stories of passengers jumping to their deaths into frigid waters off Yantai.

"It breaks my heart to talk about this," said survivor Shen Xisheng, a middle-aged man, speaking by telephone from his hospital bed. "All those people jumping to their deaths into the water."

The China Maritime Search and Rescue Center said 308 people were aboard the ferry when it caught fire and capsized late Wednesday. It was traveling across the Bohai Bay to the northeastern port city of Dalian when it encountered fierce weather. It went down off the coast of Yantai.

Grieving relatives flocked to the offices of the state-owned ferry company in the port of Yantai in Shandong province for news of the rescue efforts.

A plastic barrel floats in the water  

"The chance of finding more survivors is extremely low," a Yantai salvage official said. "But many families are demanding that we continue the rescue efforts. They want bodies back."

Investigators were also trying to determine whether or not the ship had adequate emergency devices, and why it was out in level-10 typhoon weather.

The ship's second mate said the fire appeared to have been caused when a car below deck collided with an oil tank. The blaze spread to quickly for crew to contain it, he added.

Xinhua reported the fierce weather conditions prevented other ships from assisting the Dashun. Authorities said bodies and debris have washed ashore.

Correspondent Rebecca MacKinnon and Reuters contributed to this report.


Scores missing in Chinese shipping disaster
November 25, 1999

Xinhua News Agency
Dalian Municipal Government
East Asian media
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