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Capsized Eastern Star ship, righted on 5 June 2015 in the Yangtze River, China.Most of the bodies were recovered when the ship was turned upright on Friday

The death toll from the Chinese ferry disaster now stands at 396, the authorities say, as emergency workers search the vessel in the Yangtze River.

The ship, the Eastern Star, capsized in a storm on Monday and was turned upright in an operation on Friday.

Just 14 of the 456 passengers and crew are known to have survived. More than 40 are still missing.

The tragedy looks set to be China's worst shipping disaster in more than 60 years of Communist rule.

Why did cruise ship capsize?

An aerial view shows rescue workers standing on the sunken cruise ship Eastern Star in Jianli, Hubei province, China, June 4, 2015.Only three people have been rescued alive from inside the shipRescue workers right the Eastern Star (5 June 2015)The ship was held in place by cranes as it was turned overRelatives of one of a passengers who was aboard Eastern Star. Photo: 6 JuneDistraught relatives of some of the victims were briefed by the government on Saturday

Hooks were welded onto the ship and a net stretched around the entire structure in order to lift it by crane.

Most of the bodies retrieved were inside the vessel. State TV says the focus of the recovery operation is the top and bottom decks of the ship.

By first light on Friday, the ship could be seen lying on its side with its name visible just above the water.

Media captionThe Chinese authorities tried to prevent the BBC filming a protest by relatives of the boat passengers

Officials said there had been no further signs of life inside the ship, Xinhua news agency reports.

Chinese President Xi Jinping promised a thorough investigation into the cause of the disaster, after angry relatives protested at the scene.

Authorities tightly controlled access to the site, leading family members and journalists to complain about a lack of information.


The Eastern Star

File image of the Eastern Star
  • The 76m-long, 2,200-tonne ship was named Dongfangzhixing in Chinese
  • It was carrying 405 passengers - mostly elderly tourists but also one three-year-old - as well as five travel agency employees and 46 crew members.
  • The ship is owned by the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation, and passengers had booked their trip through a travel agency in Shanghai.
  • The cruise left the eastern city of Nanjing in April and was travelling to Chongqing in the south-west via the Three Gorges - a journey of at least 1,500km (930 miles).

In pictures: Ship righted

Yangtze River tragedy on trip of a lifetime

Could Mei-yu weather front be behind disaster?

Questions raised over Eastern Star's sinking


Most of the 14 people known to have survived jumped from the ship as it began to sink. Three were rescued by divers from air pockets in the upturned hull.

The cause of the sinking is not yet known, but survivors have spoken of an intense storm which flipped the boat over in minutes.

The captain and chief engineer, who were among those who escaped, have since been detained.

Maritime agency records showed the ship was investigated for safety violations two years ago. It was held alongside five other vessels in 2013 over safety concerns.

China's deadliest maritime disaster in recent decades was in November 1999, when the Dashun ferry caught fire and capsized in the sea off Shandong province, killing about 280.

The Eastern Star could become China's deadliest boat accident since the SS Kiangya sank off Shanghai in 1948, killing somewhere between 2,750 and 4,000 people.