BEIJING (MEDIA GENERAL) — While few details have yet to emerge as to how first survivors were found and rescued, including the captain and chief engineer of the Eastern Star, which sank Monday night in China’s Yangtze River with 458 people aboard, one man shared his story with Xinhua, a Chinese news outlet.
Zhang Hui, who works for a travel agency based in Shanghai, was aboard the cruise when it sank. He told Xinhua he was in his office aboard the boat, and that it was raining so hard water was coming through the closed windows.
Zhang testified he felt the boat tilt twice, approximately 45 degrees, knocking items from his desk. Then, the ship overturned.
Zhang said everything happened quickly. He was able to grab a lifejacket, but did not have time to put it on before being rushed into water. Zhang eventually found his way to the river, and though he could not swim, he tried to make his way to shore with the lifejacket secured to his belt amidst the rocky waves and strong rains.
“The raindrops hitting my face felt like hailstones. I tried to hold my breath but water was forced into my mouth anyway,” Zhang said.
Zhang tried to get the attention of a boat that passed by, but his screams were drowned out by the loud wind and rain. He eventually drifted to shore, exhausted, early Tuesday morning.
Zhang said he stumbled toward a set of buildings before being discovered and was rushed to a hospital.
While telling his story, Zhang was adamant more people could have been saved if the ship didn’t sink so fast.
“Life jackets are accessible in all of the cruise’s cabins. If it had not happened so fast, a lot of people could’ve been saved,” he said while weeping.
More rain and strong winds have complicated rescue efforts, while officials also are concerned for survivors who have drifted away from the ship like Zhang. Several survivors have been found more than 6 miles away from the boat, per Xinhua.