January 16, 2015 – More than 20 people were missing, including foreigners, after a tugboat sank on a trial voyage in China’s vast Yangtze river, state media and authorities said.
The Singapore-registered vessel, JMS Delta, was undergoing testing in Jingjiang, Taizhou city, in the eastern province of Jiangsu on Thursday afternoon with 24 or 25 people aboard, including the owner and technicians, the official news agency Xinhua said, without identifying the proprietor.
Three people had been rescued, Xinhua said, without giving their condition. It added emergency personnel believed some might have been trapped in the vessel’s cabin.
The report said “seven or eight” foreigners were among the missing, including citizens of Singapore, India and Japan. Earlier it had said a French national might be among them.
In a statement, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said they believed that four Singaporeans were on board the vessel; the MFA added that they were in touch with the families of the Singaporeans involved.
Survivor Wang Chenkai told Xinhua that he and a Japanese engineer had just tested the engine “when the vessel suddenly slid over”. He said: “Water immediately filled in.”
A photo carried by state media showed only the bow and part of the hull of the metal ship floating above the waterline, with a salvage barge alongside. Reports said rescue workers were trying to raise the vessel and the search was continuing, but Xinhua cited rescuers saying the work was difficult as the current was swift and the water cold. Xinhua added that “23 vessels including patrol boats and tugging boats have been dispatched to search for the missing in area”.
The accident occurred on a swift-flowing stretch of the river, Asia’s longest, between the cities of Jiangyin and Zhangjiagang, which is close to the Yangtze’s mouth near the commercial hub Shanghai. The Japanese consulate in Shanghai confirmed one of its nationals was missing. The Indian and French consulates in the city were unable to immediately confirm if any of their citizens were involved in the accident.
The provincial government said the boat was undergoing trials without properly completing the required procedures and without first reporting the condition of the ship, as required by regulations.