JIANLI, China (AP) — Many relatives wept openly as they arrived Monday at a morgue for a last look at bodies of loved ones among the more than 430 people killed in the Yangtze River capsizing of the Eastern Star cruise boat.
One man carried a framed picture inside a white plastic bag of his relative, as smoke rose from the morgue’s nearby crematorium in the Hubei Province riverside community of Jianli. Authorities identified bodies from DNA samples donated by relatives, who had the option of a last look at bodies before cremation.
Under Chinese tradition, families will have the bodies cremated at a local morgue and then bring the ashes to their home communities for burial.
The death toll in the June 1 disaster near Jianli stood Monday at 434 following a thorough search of the now-upright ship over the weekend. Eight people are still missing, and authorities said they would search downriver more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) as far as Shanghai.
Fourteen people survived the late-evening capsizing during a severe storm, most of them by swimming or drifting. Three were pulled out be divers from the overturned hull the day after disaster, when rescuers heard yells from within.
Chinese authorities have attributed the accident to sudden, turbulent winds. They also have placed the surviving captain and chief engineer in police custody, though they have released no details of any pending investigation into their conduct.
Some passengers’ relatives say they believe authorities have not focused enough on the possibility of human error, including misjudgment about carrying on with the cruise during the storm rather than anchoring.
The overturning of the multi-decked, 77-meter (251-foot) Eastern Star is China’s worst boat disaster since the sinking of the SS Kiangya off Shanghai in 1948 during a civil war, which is believed to have killed anywhere from 2,750 to nearly 4,000 people.
AP writer Christopher Bodeen in Jianli contributed.
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