JIANLI, China — Zhu Hongmei, 65, had somehow managed to work her way into an air pocket in the capsized cruise ship. She stayed there for 15 or so hours despite the cold and the currents and the darkness.
She kept her head above water. She did not lose consciousness. And on Tuesday, a rescue diver appeared with scuba equipment to guide her, after just five minutes of instruction, through the murky waters and out of the Yangtze River, back into the light.
The account of that rescue, given during a televised briefing by Chen Shoumin, the commander of the local military district, was one of the few moments of triumph after an aquatic disaster likely to rate as one of the worst in recent memory.
As of midday Wednesday, with heavy rain falling, only 14 people were known to have survived the accident; 430 others who had been aboard the Oriental Star were unaccounted for.