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China cruise ship disaster: 434 bodies recovered; 8 still missing

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Bodies of the victims in cruise ship sinking will be cremated

The Eastern Star capsized June 1 in the Yangtze River

Only 14 survivors have been found

CNN —  

Their hopes have long faded, their prayers gone unanswered. Still, they wait by the banks of the Yangtze River, lighting candles and calling out the names of their loved ones.

A week ago Monday, the Eastern Star – a passenger ship on a pleasure cruise along a stretch of the Yangtze that winds through central China’s Hubei province – went down during a storm. Four hundred and fifty six people – mostly senior citizens – were on board.

Only 14 survived.

By Monday, search crews had recovered 434 bodies. Eight remain missing.

It’s the deadliest boat disaster in China in almost 70 years.

“I wish this was a nightmare,” Guan Yuan told Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency. “But nothing happens when I wake up.”

Guan’s parents were aboard the ship, taking their first long vacation since retiring, she said.

“My parents rarely traveled to save money for my education,” she told the news agency.

Bereft of the possibility of a happy reunion, family members had hoped to be able to claim the bodies and take them home. But authorities said that they will be cremated in local funeral homes.

“It’s too bad that people back home won’t able to see their deceased family members for the last time,” said Hu Jinwei, who lost four members of his family including his mother.

“I heard bodies were badly damaged. It would be unbearable to see them. I just want my families’ (ashes) back home as soon as possible, not suffering anymore.”

The bodies of Hu’s stepfather, aunt and uncle have been identified and he is anxiously waiting to hear if his mother has been identified.

So far, forensic teams using DNA to identify the victims have only made 97 matches.

Search area expanded

The rescue and recovery operation has involved nearly 150 other ships, 59 machines, 3,400 Chinese troops and 1,700 paramilitary personnel, state news agency Xinhua said.

Officials have expanded the search area to include more than 600 miles downstream and warned ships to be on the look out for floating bodies.