Only 14 survivors, one of them the captain, have been found after the ship carrying 456 overturned in a freak tornado on Monday night in Jianli, Hubei province.
Most of the passengers were elderly tourists.
Government spokesman Hu Kaihong told reporters that DNA tests were being carried out to identify the bodies. The four-storey ship was righted and raised on Friday, allowing rescuers onto it to clear away debris, break down cabin doors and look for the remaining missing. Officials have also extended their search area for victims that may have been swept far beyond the accident site.
The search scope was extended to 1,300 kilometres of the Yangtze, Asia's longest river, in the hope of finding those still unaccounted for, Xinhua reported.A government spokesman said on Thursday that no further survivors were expected to be found.Sunday marks seven days since the Eastern Star went down, and according to Chinese tradition it is a key date on which to mourn the dead.
State television showed rescue workers and government officials standing on the deck of a barge facing the Eastern Star, removing their hats and bowing their heads, as surrounding boats sounded their horns. Families members are also expected to gather on the river banks for ceremonies.
The heavy toll makes the sinking China's worst shipping disaster since 1948, when up to 4,000 on board the SS Kiangya were killed when it sank near Shanghai.
PHOTO: Rescue workers discovered the bodies after using massive cranes to lift the vessel from the riverbed. (Reuters/China Daily)
Company apologises as investigation continues
The company which operated the ship has already apologised for the disaster.
Jiang Zhao, general manager of the company which operated the Eastern Star, bowed in apology for the disaster during an interview with state television broadcast on Saturday, saying they would "fully" cooperate with the investigation.
Police have detained the captain and chief engineer for questioning after an initial probe found the ship was not overloaded and had enough life vests on board.
More than 1,400 family members have come to Jianli, with many expressing frustration at the lack of information from the government.
Beijing has pledged there would be "no cover-up" in its probe.
The government says that it is doing everything possible to help the relatives, including providing free accommodation and medical services.
Rescuers work on righting the capsized cruise ship in Jianli, Hubei province, on June 5, 2015. (Reuters: China Out)Image1 of 11
Rescuers stand beside the Eastern Star cruise ship after authorities righted the vessel. (Reuters: Aly Song)Image2 of 11
Heavy machinery is deployed to right sunked ferry in Jianli. (AFP: China Out)Image3 of 11
Rescue personnel move the remains of victims who were travelling on the capsized passenger ship Dongfangzhixing or Eastern Star on June 3, 2015. (China Out: AFP)Image4 of 11
Rescue workers are seen around a sunken ship in the Jianli section of Yangtze River. (Reuters: Kim Kyung Hoon)Image5 of 11
A survivor is pulled out of the Yangtze River by rescuers. (Reuters: China Daily)Image6 of 11
An aerial view shows rescue workers searching the sunken ship. (Reuters)Image7 of 11
Chinese rescue boats are seen alongside a capsized passenger ship carrying more than 450 people which sunk in the Yangtze river. (AFP/ STR)Image8 of 11
More than 1,000 armed police have been sent to assist rescue workers in the search effort. (Reuters: Chen Zhuo/Yangzi River Daily)Image9 of 11
Rescue workers have been told to spare no effort in the search for survivors of the sunken ferry.(Reuters: Chen Zhuo/ Yangzi River Daily)Image10 of 11
A relative of missing passengers reacts after hearing news of the sinking, sitting outside the Shanghai Xiehe travel agency.Image11 of 11