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Capsized Chinese vessel modified twice but safety standards met

China’s ministry of transport has revealed that the Chinese passenger vessel that capsized had been modified twice, but the modifications met safety standards.

The Dongfangzhixing, or Eastern Star, overturned on Monday after it was caught in a storm, leaving nearly 400 people thought to have died, and just 14 were rescued. The vessel was carrying 456 passengers and crew.

Xu Chengguang, spokesman for the transport ministry, told a press briefing on Thursday night that Chongqing Eastern Shipping Co, owner of the vessel, modified the 1994-built vessel in 1997 and 2008, extending the length and increasing the passenger carrying capacity to 534.

Xu added that there had been no further signs of life inside the vessel, which was fully righted by salvagers on the Yangtze River.

About 80 bodies have been recovered so far, and efforts are continuing to search for the scores of missing people.

Xi Jinping, president of China, has promised a thorough investigation into the cause of the disaster, as angry and distraught relatives protested.

“Experts from different fileds should be organised to deeply investigate and analyse, they should insist on using facts as evidence, not let any doubtful points slip, and thoroughly ascertain the cause of the incident,” state-owned media Xinhua said.

The vessel’s captain and chief engineer, who were among those who escaped, have since been detained.

The Eastern Star left the city of Nanjing in April and was travelling southwest to Chongqing via the Three Gorges, a journey of at least 1,500 km.

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