CHENGDU, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Authorities on Sunday launched an investigation into a deadly boat accident in southwest Chinese province of Sichuan on Saturday, as 14 people including at least six children remained missing.
The tourist boat, the Shuanglong, was carrying 18 people on a three-hour tour at Bailong Lake in the city of Guangyuan Saturday noon. The boat capsized at about 2:40 p.m, minutes before it was about to reach its destination, Xinhua reporters learnt.
Three adult men survived, and one rescued child was announced dead after emergency treatment failed. A total of 14 people, mostly young parents with their children, were missing.
The tragedy befell on five families who were enjoying a weekend excursion on the lake, a popular tourist site. Boat operator Zhou Piqiang, his wife and four-year-old son are also among the missing.
A spokesperson of Blue Sky rescue team said on Sunday noon that they found the capsized boat about 65 meters under the water with the help of underwater video cameras, but no sign of life was detected.
The State Administration of Work Safety has sent a work team to the site of the accident.
Wang Mingxing, 30, was the only passenger who was travelling alone.
"It was sunny when we boarded the ship. My friends decided not to wear life jackets and they also helped their children take off the jackets, as it turned quite hot on the boat," he recalled at a hospital in Guangyuan.
Photos shared by one of the passengers on WeChat showed the adults and children on the boat did not wear life jackets.
"It started to rain when we were close to the destination and the parents took the children to the lower deck for shelter. I stayed on the upper deck, and before I knew it, I was thrown into the air. The wind was very strong and the boat started to sink," Wang told Xinhua.
"I grabbed a life jacket before the boat sunk. It happened too fast. I saw just two or three men in water, and soon they disappeared," Wang said.
The boat, designed to carry 40 people, is owned by the city ship company, according to maritime department of Lizhou District, where the accident occurred.
Staff with the scenic area said they received a thunder and gale warning at 2 p.m. on Saturday and suspended boat tours. But for the Shuanglong, the warning came too late.
"The weather in the lake area is very changeful and unpredictable," said Lyu Shenghuai, a boat operator.
Extreme weather condition was partly blamed for the sinking of the Eastern Star, a cruise ship which capsized on the Yangtze River and led to 442 deaths on June 1 last year.
Following the accident, the operation of all tour boats and ships in Guangyuan city has been suspended.
About 320 rescuers, divers and doctors were engaged in the search mission on Sunday. Motorboats combed an area of ten kilometers long and 500 meters wide on the lake.
Li Xiang, a rescuer with Blue Sky Rescue, said underwater robots will be sent to assist the salvage of the boat on Monday.
The State Administration of Work Safety has demanded authorities in Sichuan Province to launch water transport safety inspections, improve the management of sightseeing boats, and prevent accidents.