Fishermen lost in rescue bid
By ANDY GILBERT
TWO fishermen were missing last night after going to the rescue of their stricken colleagues in rough seas south of Hong Kong.
The men went to search for a sampan which had lost contact with its parent fishing vessel as gale force winds whipped up seas in some of Hong Kong's favoured fishing grounds.
But the attempted rescue turned sour when their sampan also lost contact, while other vessels in the area picked up their colleagues.
Despite two searches of the area by a Government Flying Service fixed wing spotter plane yesterday, the missing sampan was not found.
Bad weather in the area means the search, which was suspended at nightfall, may not resume this morning.
'We will make a decision at the time,' said a Marine Department spokesman.
'But it may be decided it is pointless going out.' The first sampan disappeared about 70 nautical miles south-southeast of the territory on Monday evening.
The master of the Hong Kong-registered fishing vessel radioed the Marine Department's Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre at 10.35 pm saying two mainland crewmen were on the sampan.
Five fishing vessels in the area responded to the centre's appeal for help and began a search.
They were later joined by five more and the Government aircraft which searched for more than eight hours yesterday without success.
At 8 am yesterday, the master reported he had lost contact with the second sampan, with two mainlanders on board, which he sent out to join the search.
A fishing vessel located the first sampan at 1 pm yesterday, after it had spent 15 hours battling the choppy sea.
To Kwong-biu, of the Cheung Chau Fishermen's Welfare Promotion Association, said the area in question was a favourite spot to catch garoupa and other high-priced fish.
'Hong Kong masters mainly hire mainland crew because they are cheaper,' Mr To said.
'They will either be sent out in sampans from the main vessel to coax fish into nets or they will go out to the shoals detected by equipment on board the main vessel and hook fish individually.
'In that area I would say they were hook-fishing and probably got into trouble with sudden bad weather.
'Most fishing vessels from Hong Kong have sophisticated equipment these days and know the situation. They would not risk fishing in bad weather.'