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Chinese insurers rush to site of capsized ship

Chinese insurers rush to site of capsized ship

(Reuters) — PICC Property & Casualty Co. Ltd., the insurer of a ship that capsized in China's Yangtze River on Monday, and other insurers have sent teams to the site to settle claims in connection with what could be the country's worst shipping accident in decades.

Divers searched the capsized Eastern Star on Wednesday for more than 400 missing people, many of them elderly domestic tourists, as the death toll rose overnight to 18, with only 14 people found alive.

"We have set up emergency leadership groups, rapidly implemented emergency response measures and sent small teams who have already rushed to the site," PICC said in an emailed statement sent to Reuters on Wednesday.

The Eastern Star is owned by Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corp., which runs tours along sections of the Yangtze.

Ping An Insurance Group Co. of China Ltd. and China Life Insurance Co. Ltd. also said in statements that they had launched emergency responses to the accident and had sent teams on-site to deal with insurance claims.

China's insurance regulator called on Tuesday for insurers to respond promptly to the disaster and show "humanity and care" for the passengers and families affected.

Ping An said on its official Sina Weibo microblog that it had identified a number of life insurance customers amongst the people on board and had contacted family members to cover transport and accommodation costs.

PICC added that branches in Hubei, Jiangsu and Shanghai had started work on checking claims and handling settlements. The insurer is part of People's Insurance Group of China Co. Ltd., one of the country's biggest insurers.

The Yangtze sinking could end up with a greater loss of life than the sinking of a ferry in South Korea last year that killed 304 people, most of them teenagers on a school trip.

The search area around the Eastern Star has been expanded up to 135 miles downstream, state television said, suggesting bodies could have been swept far away from where the ship went over in the rain-swollen river during bad weather.

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