China ferry disaster: Rescuers hear trapped passengers calling for help through ship's hull as they search for survivors

Another 12 people reportedly swam to shore to alert authorities of the accident while at least five people have been confirmed dead

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The Independent Online

Rescuers have said they could hear people calling for help through the hull of a four-floor ferry that has capsized in the Yangtze river.

So far, three survivors have been pulled from the cruise ship on China’s Yangtze River, after it capsized with 458 people on board last night.

At least 15 people are known to have survived the incident, with some having to swim to shore, while five others have been confirmed dead. More than 50 boats and 3,000 people have been involved in the search effort.

Over 400 people are still reported missing and feared dead.

A Chinese rescue boat is seen alongside a capsized passenger ship carrying more than 450 people which sunk in the Yangtze river, triggering a rescue effort hampered by strong winds and heavy rain

A woman is helped as she is sent to hospital after being pulled out by a diver from the sunken ship in Jianli, Hubei province

The Eastern Star's captain and chief engineer have been taken into custody, according to Chinese state media.

Divers managed to find a 65-year-old woman and a man who had been trapped - they spent time teaching the two to use breathing apparatus before bringing the two to safety.

At least 6 inches of rain had fallen in the region over the past 24 hours, with winds reaching 80 mph (130 kph) during the accident.

Relatives of passengers on the ship that sank at Jianli section of Yangtze River

A man, accompanied by his aunt, grieves for his missing parents

Relatives, gathered in Shanghai, have began to question whether the captain did enough to keep passengers safe and demanded answers from local officials requiring police assistance.

Rescue efforts were made more difficult after the ship drifted 3 kilometres downstream, with choppy waters slowing progress.

State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of orange jacketed workers using a hammer to tap the hull, listening out for a response before gesturing downward.

Another 12 people had swum to shore, before alerting authorities.

According to experts, the fact that the capsized ship continued to drift downstream was a positive sign as there was enough air inside to give it buoyancy that survivors would be able to breathe.

Chi-Mo Park, a professor of naval architecture and ocean engineering at Ulsan University in South Korea said that survival was dependent on “how much space there is inside the vessel”.

On relative, Huang Yan, 49, from Shanghai told local reporters that both her husband and father in-law were on board the ship when it tipped over.

Chinese rescue teams head out to search for survivors

Rescue workers carry a boat as they conduct a search

"We want the government to release the name list to see who was on boat," she wept as she told one reporter.

"Why did the captain leave the ship while the passengers were still missing?"

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is reported to be traveling to the accident site and President Xi Jinping has ordered a work team of the State Council, the country's Cabinet, to rush to the site to guide the rescue work.

Additional Reporting by AP