|Rescue teams head out to search for survivors of a ship that sank in the Yangtze River in China while carrying more than 450 people. The rescue effort was hampered by strong winds and heavy rain off Jianli in China's Hubei province. — AFP/VNA Photo
BEIJING — A passenger ship carrying more than 450 people has sunk in the Yangtze river in central China, state media reported on Tuesday, triggering a rescue effort hampered by strong winds and heavy rain.
The ship named Dongfangzhixing, or "Eastern Star", was headed from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank in the Jianli section of the river, in Hubei province, on Monday evening, Xinhua said.
The cause of the sinking was not immediately clear, but state broadcaster CCTV said it was an accident.
Eight people have been rescued, including the captain and chief engineer, who both said the vessel had been caught in a "cyclone". There were 458 people on board when the vessel sank at 9:28pm, CCTV said, including 406 Chinese passengers, five travel agency workers and 47 crew members.
According to CCTV, the vessel – which measures 76.5 metres long – is capable of carrying up to 534 people, and was owned by a firm that operated tours in the region of the Three Gorges dam.
The Xinhua news agency said that Chinese president Xi Jinping issued an order for "all out rescue efforts" while Premier Li Keqiang ordered a work team from the State Council, China's Cabinet, to direct search and rescue work.
Efforts have faced difficulty due to bad weather, Xinhua said.
Li, Vice Premier Ma Kai and State Councillor Yang Jing were on their way to the site, according to the agency.
Xi meanwhile ordered the provinces of Hubei and Chongqing to participate and in Xinhua's description "properly handle the aftermath". China's transport ministry and other government departments were also told to throw all available resources into the rescue effort and for the treatment of those saved, Xinhua said.
Xi also called for officials to heed lessons and take more effective measures to protect people's lives, Xinhua said.
A total of 22 people, including eight foreigners, were killed when a tugboat sank on the river between the eastern cities of Jingjiang and Zhangjiagang in January. — AFP