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At least 11 dead in China ferry sinking: reports
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sept 10, 2011

At least 11 people, including nine schoolchildren, died when an apparently overloaded ferry capsized in a river in southern China, reports said Saturday.

Local authorities said 45 people, including two crew, were aboard the boat when it became ensnared in a cable and tipped over, CCTV reported.

But witnesses quoted by the Beijing News said there were 92 schoolchildren on the ferry, and one blogger claimed to have counted as many as 63 bodies in the river after the Friday afternoon incident.

Officials said the ferry cut across a cable that appeared to then become wrapped around a propeller on a river in Shaoyang in southern Hunan province.

They said three people were still missing, while 16 were injured and 13 had escaped unharmed.

"Several witnesses reported that at the time of the accident, 92 schoolchildren were on the boat," said a report in the Beijing News.

The report added that people had begun cleaning the bodies of the victims and burning paper money -- a common offering for the dead in China.

"It was so crowded we had trouble breathing," one survivor told the paper, adding that she had seen a half-erased notice on the boat saying it was only licensed to carry 32 passengers.

One user of the microblogging service Tencent claimed to have counted 63 bodies taken from the river.

The Xinhua news agency said the two owners of the boat, which had been chartered by a local school to transport students, were arrested.

Lax regulation and poor enforcement of safety rules on China's waterways make fatal accidents a fairly common occurrence.

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