The photo taken by a cell phone shows the search and rescue team starting to right the capsized cruise ship Eastern Star in the section of Jianli on the Yangtze River, central China's Hubei Province, June 4, 2015. The ship will be hoisted by cranes on site capable of lifting the whole vessel and set it upright. Over 450 people were on board the Eastern Star when it sank on Monday night in Jianli. (Photo: Xinhua/Sun Chengyu)
82 confirmed dead
By early morning Friday, 82 bodies have been recovered and 14 people found alive, CCTV reported.
As the death toll from the capsized ship in the Yangtze River had risen to 77, an official said there was little hope that anyone else would be found alive.[Special coverage]
Of the more than 450 people on the Eastern Star, 91 people have been found, including 14 survivors.
The ship capsized on Monday night in a freak tornado in Jianli, Hubei Province.
After three days of divers combing compartments and searches on nearby waters, rescuers on Thursday evening decided to hoist and upright the wreckage.
"There is slim chance that we will find more survivors inside the hull. We have made the general judgement that there is no possibility of survival," said Xu Chengguang, spokesperson with the Ministry of Transport (MOT).
Xu explained that the decision would help find the missing "in the shortest possible time" and "protect the dignity of the deceased".
More than 1,200 relatives had arrived in Jianlin as of 2 p.m., said Jianlin County head Huang Zhen. They were met by more than 1,200 officials and will be offered the support of over 100 counselors, Huang added.
Over 10,000 people held a candlelight vigil on a square in Jianlin on Thursday to pray for those on the ship.
The ship capsized "within one or two minutes" of being caught in a tornado on Monday night, according to the ship's captain and chief engineer, who both survived the incident.
Most of its passengers were elderly tourists enjoying a 11-day trip along the scenic river.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior Communist Party of China (CPC) leaders have called on rescuers to "take all possible measures" to save lives. They have also demanded serious investigation into the cause of the tragedy.
Three holes had been cut in the bottom of the capsized ship since Wednesday evening to give divers easier access to the interior.
This option had initially been shunned. Li Qixiu, an expert with the Naval University of Engineering and member of the rescue effort, said the holes had the potential to release any air pockets trapped inside the hull, and could damage the ship's stability.
Air pockets could have formed at the bottom of the ship as it capsized very quickly, giving passengers a chance of survival, Li said.
But oxygen inside the hull gets thinner with each passing hour, he added.
Xu said detection equipment used in recent searches has failed to locate any signs of life.
Wang Zhigang, general manager at the Wuhan branch of China Classification Society, who is directing the rescue, said if the first 72 hours pass without finding survivors, uprighting the ship showed respect for those who have perished.
"After all, their bodies shouldn't be in the water for too long," Wang said.