Huge waves triggered by a landslide on the northern bank of Daning River, a tributary of Yangtze River, on 24 June caused 16 vessels berthed along the bank to sink.
The landslide, which occurred at 18:40 h local time, triggered waves as high as 5-6 m.
Initial checks show no one was on board the ships, which are mostly fishing and farming vessels, during the landslide, according to Changjiang Maritime Safety Administration.
Four people were injured in the incident, while another is still missing. Search and rescue operation is under way and authorities have not confirmed the exact number of casualties.
Maritime officials have imposed traffic control measures in the area, stated the Yangtze River search and rescue centre.
The Three Gorges hydropower plant is unaffected, and water level of the reservoir is being monitored.