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Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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Hopes of Finding More Eastern Star Survivors Dims – Rescue Ends, Identification of Corpses Begins

Eastern Star Relatives

(Photo : Reuters) Some of the grieving relatives believe that human error on the part of the Eastern Star's captain and crew may have contributed to the disaster. Authorities have stopped searching for survivors in the passenger ship and are now focusing on removing dead bodies.

Rescue efforts aimed at extricating trapped survivors from the capsized Eastern Star passenger ship ended last Thursday evening. Authorities are now focusing on  recovering and identifying the dead passengers instead. 

The Eastern Star passenger ship capsized on the Yangtze river during a freak tornado or storm earlier in the week.

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Yahoo News reported that recovery teams were able to overturn the capsized ship on Friday morning, June 5.  The next step involves removing the water inside the ship in order to search for bodies.

Transport ministry spokesman Xu Chengguang reported that the death toll has now reached 97 as more bodies were recovered during the operation to turn the ship upright. The Shanghaiist.com quotes Xu, who said that they have shifted to salvaging the stricken ship since it is unlikely that there are any more trapped passengers alive in the ship.  As of the moment, more than 340 missing passengers that have are yet to be accounted for.

Only 14 passengers and crews were saved from the ship.  Most of them were reportedly able swim away or were drifted by the currents to the shore.  Only three survivors were rescued from inside the capsized ship.

Some of the bereaved relatives are reportedly making their feelings know to the media.  Xia Yunchen's brother is one the passengers of the capsized boat.  He insists that the authorities should allow families of the deceased passengers to first see and identify the remains of their relatives. The Chinese government's normal operating procedure on handling victims of natural disaster is to cremate the bodies first before turning them over to their relatives.

Officially, the sinking of the Eastern Star is viewed as a natural disaster, but some of the grieving relatives believe that human error on the part of the captain and crew may have contributed to the disaster. 

The surviving crew of the boat including the ship captain are being held for questioning.  Xu claims that there will be no cover-up in the investigation, according to Asiaone.com

The ruling communist party is currently restricting information with regards to the tragedy.  Officials handling the press coverage are instructed to safeguard the country's "social stability" while acknowledging the feelings of the grieving relatives.  

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