China's capsized ship righted as death toll rises to 103

The cruise ship Dong Fang Zhi Xing, which capsized in the Yangtze River, after it was righted in Jianli county, southern China's Hubei province, June 5, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA 
The cruise ship Dong Fang Zhi Xing, which capsized in the Yangtze River, after it was righted in Jianli county, southern China's Hubei province, June 5, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA 

BEIJING (REUTERS, AFP) - The death toll from a Chinese cruise ship which capsized on the Yangtze River rose to 103 on Friday, state television said, adding that the overturned ship had been righted.

China's Central Television said on its microblog that 339 people remain missing and only 14 survivors have been found.

Huge cranes hoisted the sunken cruise from waters on Friday afternoon, nearly four days after the vessel capsized with more than 450 onboard.

Relatives of missing passengers expressed agony and anger after an official admitted there is no hope of finding more survivors.

Rescuers decided to overturn the ship "on the general judgement that there is no possibility of survival," Xu Chengguang, a transport ministry spokesman, told a press conference late on Thursday.

He added on Friday that the boat would be raised completely above the water's surface, allowing rescuers to search through it.

Gao Rufu, whose 62-year-old sister is among the dead, said: "I feel sad, so sad".

The possible death toll of 442 would make the sinking on the Yangtze river China's worst shipping disaster in nearly 70 years.

Reports citing witnesses said the boat overturned in under a minute, and weather officials said a freak tornado hit the area at the time. Rescuers used massive cranes Thursday night to right the Eastern Star at the site of the disaster in Hubei province's Jianli county.

Lifting the 76.5m long and 2,200 tonne vessel is a delicate and risky operation that could destabilise the wreck. Photos on Friday showed oil slicks in several places near the ship and Xu said efforts were underway to contain the leakage.