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Search for Bodies of China Shipwreck

November 28, 1999

BEIJING (AP) _ Fifty divers searched the remains of a sunken Chinese ferry Sunday for scores of bodies missing since the craft caught fire and capsized in stormy, frigid waters four days ago, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Bad weather and high waves since Wednesday’s accident churned up the sea bottom, giving the divers little visibility, the government news agency said. It said divers had recovered only four bodies by the afternoon.

Only 22 of the 302 passengers and crew on the Dashun survived the disaster, and previous reports by state media said that 150 bodies had been found. Some of the bodies washed up on a 28-mile stretch of shoreline near Yantai, the port the Dashun left on its way across the Bohai Strait to Dalian.

Xinhua said that the survivors were ``recovering well″ and some have left the hospital.

While Xinhua reported that rescue work continued, the dispatch of the divers as well as a heavy-duty salvage vessel indicated officials were shifting their focus to recovery of the wreckage and bodies.

The 50 divers working Sunday were to be joined by 45 Chinese navy divers, Xinhua said.

Initial reports said that the accident may have been started after a car on the ferry’s lower deck caught fire. Pounding waves prevented other ships from reaching the Dashun. Many passengers died in the icy waters. Some of those who made it to lifeboats died from exposure to the freezing temperatures.

Update hourly