Timeline: Eastern Star captain says tornado struck doomed cruise ship

A Chinese rescue center said the ship sank so fast it could not send out distress call.

In this photo, released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, rescue workers pull a survivor from the overturned Eastern Star on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. The cruise ship capsized late Monday night on the Yangtze River near Jianli in the Hubei province. There were 458 passengers aboard the ship when it capsized. (Cheng Min/AP via Xinhua)
In this photo, released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, rescue workers pull a survivor from the overturned Eastern Star on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. The cruise ship capsized late Monday night on the Yangtze River near Jianli in the Hubei province. There were 458 passengers aboard the ship when it capsized. (Cheng Min/AP via Xinhua)

BEIJING (MEDIA GENERAL) – Details continue to trickle in on how the Eastern Star capsized in China’s Yangtze River on Monday night.

As Chinese officials prepare for darkness to set in near Jianli in the Hubei province, rescue workers are scrambling to work to cut holes into the hull of the overturned ship to rescue trapped passengers. Footage from state-run China Central Television (CCTV) showed rescuers tapping on the hull and listening for responses. CCTV also showed rescuers using blowtorches to cut holes in the hull.

Photo Gallery: Cruise ship sinks on Yangtze River
Photo Gallery: Cruise ship sinks on Yangtze River

As of early Tuesday morning, 15 survivors have been rescued, while five people have been confirmed dead. CCTV reported there were 458 people aboard the Eastern Star before it sank, all of them Chinese citizens.

Here is a brief timeline of the Eastern Star’s demise:

According to CCTV reports, the ship capsized at approximately 9:28 p.m. Monday. According to the ship’s captain and chief engineer, two of the 15 rescued, the ship was hit by a tornado.

A senior official with the China Meteorological Administration told the Beijing News that while it was raining heavily at the time of the incident, he could not confirm a tornado.

According to Xinhua, witnesses said the Eastern Star sank so fast it did not have time to send out a distress call, a rare occurrence according to officials. The Yueyang Maritime Rescue Center received a distress call at 10:10 p.m. from another boat who saw two people in the water. Per CCTV, the ship is approximately 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from shore and the water is about 50 feet deep.

Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang said more than 4,000 people and 110 vessels have cooperated in the search and rescue mission.

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