BEIJING: Twenty-one people have been confirmed dead after a tugboat sank on a trial voyage on the Yangtze, China’s longest river, state media reported Saturday.
The vessel was raised Saturday, 40 hours after it sank while undergoing testing with 25 people, including eight foreigners, aboard in the eastern province of Jiangsu on Thursday afternoon, state media said.
Three people have been rescued, Xinhua news agency said, with one still missing. All those on board were male.
Rescuers were still searching the cockpit of the newly-built boat and along the river for the missing person, the report said, without giving his nationality.
A Singapore foreign ministry spokesman told AFP on Friday that the vessel was registered in the city-state and four of its nationals were on board.
The Japanese and Indian consulates in Shanghai each confirmed to AFP that one of their nationals had also been on board.
Xinhua cited local authorities as saying two others on board were from Malaysia and Indonesia.
“Water entered the boat cabin very quickly, in less than 20 seconds it was completely filled with water,” survivor Wang Zhenkai told state television from his hospital bed.
Wang was accompanying a Japanese technician who was testing the engine, though the ship was made and outfitted in China, reports said.
A photo carried by state media Friday showed only the bow and part of the hull of the metal ship floating above the waterline, with a salvage barge alongside.
The accident occurred on a stretch of the river between the cities of Jingjiang and Zhangjiagang, which is close to the Yangtze’s mouth near the commercial hub Shanghai.
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.