Rescuers prepare for the salvage operation for the cruise ship Eastern Star that capsized late on Monday in the Jianli section of the Yangtze River in central China's Hubei Province, June 3, 2015. (Photo: Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)
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75 bodies recovered
By 15:00 Thursday 75 bodies had been recovered, a news conference at the rescue center was told.
Jianli city has provided free accommodation for families of victims. By 14:00 Thursday more than 1,200 family members had arrived.
Rescuers have retrieved another 39 bodies from 9:00 p.m. Wednesday to 8:00 a.m. Thursday, bringing the total death toll to 65 after a cruise ship capsized on the Yangtze River Monday night.
A total of 79 people have been found, including 14 survivors. The rescuers cut a 55-by-60-cm rectangular hole on the bottom of the overturned ship Wednesday night to give divers easier access to the hull.
The rescuers have opened three holes in the hull to reach more than 370 people who could still be alive in the ship.
Air pockets could have formed at the bottom of the ship when it overturned quickly, said Li Qixiu, an expert with the Naval University of Engineering, which has participated in the rescue effort.
"If trapped in the air pocket, passengers could still have a chance of surviving," Li said, adding that a 65-year-old woman and a 21-year-old survivor were pulled out alive from the air pocket.
However, Li warned that oxygen at the bottom of the ship could grow thinner over time, leaving the survival of those trapped at risk.
"Opening holes on the hull is the last resort in finding survivors in the ship," said Wang Zhigang, general manager at the Wuhan branch of China Classification Society, who is directing the rescue. "If there is sign of life, they should open a hole to rescue. If not, the hole should be closed immediately."
Wang added that, according to international norms, the first 72 hours are the critical period when rescuers should exhaust all means to rescue survivors.
If the first 72 hours pass and no survivors are found, Wang said, turning the ship back upright shows respect for those who have perished.
"After all, their bodies shouldn't be in the water for too long," Wang said. (Updated)
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