Sinking of Dongfang zhi Xing

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Sinking of the MV Dongfang zhi Xing
Sinking location is located in Hubei
Sinking location
Sinking location
Sinking location is located in China
Sinking location
Sinking location
Date 1 June 2015
Time 21:28 (UTC+8)
Location Yangtze River, Jianli County, Hubei
Coordinates 29°42′44″N 112°55′25″E / 29.7123°N 112.9236°E / 29.7123; 112.9236Coordinates: 29°42′44″N 112°55′25″E / 29.7123°N 112.9236°E / 29.7123; 112.9236[1]
Participants 454[2][3]
Outcome Ship sank, 12 rescued
Deaths 442[4][5][6]
Survivors 12

MV Dongfang zhi Xing (Chinese: 东方之星; pinyin: Dōngfāng zhī Xīng; translated as Oriental Star or Eastern Star) was a river cruise ship that operated in the Three Gorges region of inland China. On 1 June 2015, the ship was traveling on the Yangtze River in Jianli, Hubei Province with 454 people on board when it capsized in a severe thunderstorm. On 13 June, 442 deaths were confirmed, with 12 rescued.[3] It is the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in China's history, and the worst maritime disaster (including wartime disasters) since the Taiping steamer sank in 1949, killing more than 1,500.[7]


Around 9:28 pm on 1 June 2015, Dongfang zhi Xing was making a 1,500 km (930 mile) trip from Nanjing to Chongqing via the Yangtze River. When the ship was near Jingzhou, it was caught in a storm and sank in approximately 15 m (49 ft) deep waters. The captain and the chief engineer said that the ship was hit by a tornado, and the China Meteorological Administration confirmed that a tornado occurred in Jianli County with wind-speeds reaching EF1 strength, or approximately 138–177 km/h (86–110 mph).[8][9] It was once widely believed that the tornado struck the river near the ship's location,[10] but later investigation suggested that the tornado struck a location 8 km away and did not affect the ship;[11] instead, based on Doppler radar data and other evidence, the official report found that a massive downburst in the thunderstorm, with gusts over 118 km/h (12–13 on the Beaufort scale), was the likely cause of the capsizing.[12]

Passengers and crew[edit]

Passengers on board by region[13]
Region No.
Jiangsu 204
Shanghai 97
Tianjin 43
Shandong 23
Fujian 19
Zhejiang 11
Anhui 8
Total 405

Initially, the Chinese authorities reported 458 people were aboard the ship, but later reduced this figure to 456. This included 405 passengers, all of whom were Chinese and mostly elderly, 46 crew members and five tour guides.[2][9] According to crew members that were rescued, the storm hit and capsized the ship quickly while most of the passengers were asleep. One rescued passenger stated that the ship had become flooded with water, and with the turbulent river conditions, capsized after experiencing a list greater than 45 degrees.[10] Seven survivors were able to swim to shore and alert authorities about two and a half hours after capsizing.[14] On 13 June, the Chinese authorities updated that 454, not 456, people were on board and 442 bodies had been found with 12 rescued.[3]

Analysis of the incident[edit]

Severe weather reports were issued for the area, which should have subsequently been sent to all vessels on the river in the area for them to take necessary precautions. There is no confirmation that Dongfang zhi Xing had been properly notified,[10] though at least one other vessel travelling nearby was shown to have taken precautions due to the weather warning.[15] The ship's captain and chief engineer, two of the rescued persons, were taken into custody for questioning.[16]

The Chinese government censored news and discussion about this accident, while tightly controlling media coverage. Chinese journalists were told to focus on the "positive part" of the story only. The Politburo Standing Committee attempted to control public opinion about the disaster response, by issuing an order to both "understand the sorrow of the families" and "concretely preserve social stability".[17] Some foreign journalists were also blocked from the rescue site in Hubei province where a police cordon was set up with checkpoints.[18]

On 30 December 2015, the Chinese government issued the investigation report of the incident. The report said that heavy storms caused the Dongfang zhi Xing to capsize; it also found that the shipping company and local authorities had flaws in their daily management and suggested that 43 people be punished accordingly.[19]


  • Dongfang zhi Xing
  • 东方之星
Owner: Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation (重庆东方轮船公司)[20]
Operator: Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation (重庆东方轮船公司)
Port of registry:  China
Route: Nanjing to Chongqing
Ordered: Before 1992[21]
Builder: Chongqing Chuandong Shipyard (重庆川东造船厂)
Completed: 1994
Maiden voyage: Fuling to Wanzhou[22]
In service: February 1994[22]
Out of service: 1 June 2015
Identification: MMSI number: 413800469[23]
Fate: Capsized and sank on 1 June 2015
Status: Wreck
General characteristics
Class and type: Cruise ship
Tonnage: 3900[24]
Displacement: 2200
Length: 76.5 metres (251 ft)[25]
Beam: 11 metres (36 ft)
Height: 18.6 metres (61 ft)
Draught: 2.5 metres (8.2 ft)
Speed: 6 knots (11 km/h)[26]
Capacity: 534 passengers
Crew: 46[27]

MV Dongfang zhi Xing was constructed in February 1994.[28] In 1997 the ship’s length was extended by 11 meters. It underwent another retrofit in 2008 that cut its capacity from 584 to 534 people.[29] As of 2015, the ship was 76 metres (250 ft) long with a beam of 14 metres (45 ft).[30] It was owned by the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation and operated by Xiehe Travel, where it made cruises within the Three Gorges area of inland China.[31]

Dongfang zhi Xing, as well as other Yangtze River cruise ships, had come under increasing government scrutiny in recent years due to the growing tourist industry in China[citation needed]. In 2013, the Dongfang zhi Xing and five other ships were cited for safety violations by the Nanjing maritime bureau, though the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation did not comment on the nature of these infractions.[15]


Rescue efforts were made immediately to save the passengers and crew, reaching full scale about twelve hours after the capsizing.[28] 82 people had been confirmed dead by 4 June,[6] with some bodies having washed ashore 50 km (31 mi) downstream from the wreck.[32] Fourteen people were rescued in the immediate aftermath, including the ship's engineer and captain.[14][33]

According to a tweet from China Central Television (CCTV), rescuers were able to hear the sound of people trapped inside.[28] CCTV reported that search teams heard people yelling from within the ship. 1,000 police officers from the Hubei Armed Police Corps were sent to the site with 40 inflatable boats. Authorities reported that the search and rescue effort included 3,000 people and 50 boats.[14] Crews used both underwater approaches with diving apparatus, and above-water approaches through holes cut through the inverted hull.[32]

A typical cruise ship similar to Dongfang zhi Xing used to tour the Three Gorges rivers

Additional search efforts were made to locate survivors or bodies up to 220 kilometres (140 mi) downstream of the wreck.[34] The Three Gorges Dam upriver was instructed to cut water flow rates by half in order to lower the river levels for the rescue effort.[35]

On 5 June, the inverted ship was fitted with cables and nets, and the holes cut in the hull sealed, in order to right the ship and resume the search for survivors or bodies.[36] The search yielded only bodies.[4] The search range was subsequently expanded to 1,000 km (620 mi) downstream on 5 June.[37]

The highest levels of the government were involved in the search coordination. Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang ordered rescue efforts. Premier Li Keqiang, Vice Premier Ma Kai and State Councilor Yang Jing traveled to the site itself.[38]


On 7 June, more than 500 rescue workers and government officials at the site mourned during a three-minute silence, after an announcement from Minister of Transport Yang Chuantang. According to Chinese tradition, the seventh day is a key occasion to mourn the passing of the dead (头七).[39]

To mourn the victims, all Chinese satellite television channels suspended entertainment programs from 7 to 8 June.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "长江沉船 事发3天前航道局提醒谨慎航行,航道因施工曾调整". The Paper. 5 June 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Wong, Edward; Forsythe, Michael (3 June 2015). "Few Triumphs in Frantic Hunt for 430 in Yangtze River". New York Times. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "Sinking of Dongfang zhi Xing: 12 rescued, 442 bodied found" (in Chinese). 13 June 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Watson, Ivan; Park, Madison; Botelho, Greg (5 June 2015). "331 bodies recovered from Chinese cruise ship that capsized". CNN. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "Stricken Chinese cruise ship lifted from Yangtze River; hundreds of bodies recovered". CNN. 6 June 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Death toll climbs to 82 as China starts righting capsized ship". Reuters. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Kuo, Lily (5 June 2015). "With over 440 expected dead, the Yangtze river cruise sinking is China's worst boating disaster". Quartz. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  8. ^ "Tornado caused Chinese cruise ship to capsize". News 10. 3 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "Survivor: Chinese cruise ship capsized quickly during violent storm". CNN. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c Wong, Chun Han; Chin, Josh (2 June 2015). "China Ship Passengers' Fate Unclear; Media Clampdown Begins". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  11. ^ "长江沉船调查结果:强风加暴雨 船只一分钟倾覆". 北京晨报. 31 December 2015. 
  12. ^ "东方之星客轮翻沉事故调查报告(全文)". 安监总局网站. 30 December 2015. 
  13. ^ Phipps, Claire; Weaver, Matthew (3 June 2015). "Cyclone hits Chinese cruise on Yangtze river: 400 missing – live updates". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 June 2015. 
  14. ^ a b c Phipps, Claire; Weaver, Matthew (2 June 2015). "Chinese ferry sinks in Yangtze river with 458 people aboard – latest updates". The Guardian. 
  15. ^ a b Burkitt, Laurie; Wong, Chun Han (3 June 2015). "Chinese Ship That Sank in Yangtze River Was Cited for Safety Issues". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  16. ^ Mullen, Jethro; Jiang, Steven (1 June 2015). "Cruise ship sinks in China's Yangtze River with 458 aboard". CNN. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  17. ^ "Capsized Chinese ship righted: 97 bodies found, hundreds still missing". Associated Press. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 21 June 2015 – via The Guardian. 
  18. ^ "China is censoring news and discussion about the Yangtze cruise disaster". Quartz. 3 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  19. ^ "China ship disaster probe finds management flaws". Xinhua. 30 December 2015. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  20. ^ 贾华杰 (2 June 2015). ""东方之星"沉船身世调查:所属公司亏损400万". Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  21. ^ 张梦云; 吴非 (2 June 2015). "我所知道的东方轮船公司和东方之星". Southern Weekly. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  22. ^ a b 中国船舶网 (4 June 2015). "东方轮船:"东方之星"号曾"大改"". Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  23. ^ "Dongfang zhi Xing". Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  24. ^ "东方之星游轮倾覆事件告游客书". 2 June 2015. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  25. ^ 赵宇飞、韩振 (2 June 2015). "失事客轮于1994年建造 中间曾进行翻修". Xinhua News Agency. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  26. ^ "東方之星沉沒前異常調頭 疑似操作不當". Central News Agency. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  27. ^ "长江沉船事故仍有437人生死不明 14人生还". Sina. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  28. ^ a b c Yong, Edward (2 June 2015). "Hundreds Missing After Chinese Cruise Ship Sinks on Yangtze". New York Times. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  29. ^ "China Prepares to Right Overturned Ship in Yangtze River". The Wall Street Journal. 4 June 2015. 
  30. ^ "Dongfang zhi Xing". Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  31. ^ Shannon Tiezzi, The Diplomat. "438 Passengers Still Missing After Chinese Tour Boat Sinks". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  32. ^ a b "China ship capsize: 'Race against time' in Yangtze rescue". BBC. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  33. ^ Sue-Lin Wong (2 June 2015). "Chinese ferry with 458 aboard sinks in storm, 20 rescued". Reuters. 
  34. ^ "Yangtze boat disaster: hopes fade for hundreds missing after China's worst boat tragedy in decades". Reuters. 3 June 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  35. ^ "Yangtze Capsize: How the Three Gorges Dam Is Helping Rescuers". WSJ. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  36. ^ "Yangtze disaster: Operation begins to lift Chinese ship". BBC. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  37. ^ "China ferry disaster search area is extended 1,000km down Yangtze river". The Guardian. 6 June 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  38. ^ "President Xi urges all-out rescue efforts after ship with 458 people sinks". Xinhua. 2 June 2015. 
  39. ^ "China mourns Yangtze shipwreck victims". Xinhua. 7 June 2015. 
  40. ^ "网曝总局要求停播综艺 湖南江苏等证实将悼念". 6 June 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 

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