A tour boat carrying more than 450 passengers and crew sank on the Yangtze River and only 30 people have been rescued, Chinese state media reported early Tuesday.
Several rescue ships and a submersible craft were deployed, although fog and bad weather were hampering the rescue effort, CCTV reported.
The state broadcaster said the boat was carrying 406 Chinese passengers, five travel agency employees and 47 crew members. Two of the rescued included the captain and chief engineer, who told authorities the boat had been hit by a tornado, state media reported.
The boat – the 251-foot-long Eastern Star – reportedly sank at about 9:30 p.m. Monday near Jingzhou in Hubei province. It had been traveling upriver from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing.
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A local newspaper, the Hubei Daily, reported that about 30 people had been rescued by early Tuesday and that most of the passengers on the boat were between 50 and 80 years old.
CCTV tweeted that Chinese President Xi Jinping had called for “all-out efforts in rescue work.”
Xinhua news agency reported that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and other top officials were in route to the accident site.
“Li instructed a work team of the State Council to rush to the site to guide search and rescue work,” Xinhua reported.
China’s mightiest river, the Yangzte has killed thousands of people in floods over the years, and boat accidents are not uncommon. In January, 22 people were killed after a tugboat on a test voyage overturned in the river in Jiangsu province, according to state media.
McClatchy special correspondent Tiantian Zhang contributed to this report.