The Eastern Star, a small cruise ship; capsized on the Yangtze River in China carrying 450 passengers and crew members. No emergency signal was sent from the ship and only 14 survivors have been found, including the captain and chief engineer.

Survivors said it capsized within minutes, leaving little time for life jackets and life boats. The captain and chief engineer reported that the ship was caught in a freak storm. Meteorologists in China have confirmed that a “sudden, strong and violent” storm hit the area at the time of the incident. Nearby ships recorded the Eastern Star traveling while taking on heavy rains and lightening.

The captain of another nearby ship said Eastern Star’s crew radioed him around 9.20pm – 10 minutes before it allegedly capsized – saying: “We are planning to anchor behind you.” The captain focused on anchoring his own ship and when he was done the Eastern Star was gone.

The Eastern Star cruise ship left the eastern city of Nanjing in April and was travelling to Chongqing in the south-west via the Three Gorges – a journey of at least 930 miles. The ship carried 405 passengers that were mostly elderly tourists. The voyage was known as a “trip of a lifetime” for many tourists in China.

The rescue efforts quickly turned to recovery efforts as heavy rain and fog made it difficult to get to the capsized vessel. The youngest reported passenger was a three year old whose body has been found. The loss of so many lives will resonate for quite some time as many of the lost were grandmothers and grandfathers.

It remains unclear exactly what caused the ship to capsize though it is speculated that heavy winds while the ship tried to anchor could be the cause.

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