Zhang Hui receives treatment in a hospital of Yueyang city on June 2, 2015.(Photo/Xinhua)
When Zhang Hui touched a rock near shore on Tuesday morning, he thought he was hallucinating.[Special coverage]
The 43-year-old man endured an unlikely drift to eventually emerge alive from a ship that capsized in the Yangtze River on Monday night that has left more than 400 missing.
Zhang, who works for a Shanghai-based travel agency, was one of more than 450 people aboard the cruise called Eastern Star that left the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing on Thursday and was expected to reach Chongqing on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River this weekend.
Many of the people on the cruise had gone to bed around 9:00 p.m. Monday, whereas Zhang was still going through the list of activities planned for his group of tourists the next day.
Outside of his office onboard the ship, rain began to pour and lightening streaked across the sky.
Gradually, the rain began to pound the right side of the ship, with water seeping inside the cabins.
"The water continued to seep through even when you shut the windows," Zhang said.
Twenty minutes later, passengers began taking their soaked quilts and TVs into the hall. Zhang was leaving his office on the right side of the boat to return to his bedroom on the left side. That's when he noticed the ship had began to tilt.
The ship shifted as much as 45 degrees, according to Zhang. Small bottles began to roll down the table. Zhang replaced them up, but they tipped and rolled again.
"Looks like we are in trouble," Zhang recalls telling his colleague. Then the cruise overturned.
Zhang and his colleague only had 30 seconds to grab a life jacket. They grabbed everything they could reach and kept their heads above water as the cruise sank.
Zhang, who does not know how to swim, drifted in the river, holding the life jacket to stay afloat. He had no time to wear it.
He remembered seeing around a dozen people in the water yelling for help.
Five minutes later, only three to four could be heard. Their voices waned half an hour later, Zhang recalled.