Red tape delayed rescue

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 January, 1997, 12:00am

MARINE police were forced to wait 40 minutes for approval from Guangdong authorities before they could enter Chinese waters to rescue the crew of a sinking boat.

The rescue operation, which began on Wednesday after a Hong Kong-based fishing vessel was holed in Chinese waters, was delayed while police sought permission to help. The usual 15 to 30-minute wait dragged on while officers tried to reach their counterparts in China, a police spokesman said yesterday.

Senior inspector Yip Kwong-choi, Commander of Police Launch 56, said his crew had received a call for help about 2.40 am on Wednesday and only received approval from the Guangdong Rescue Co-ordination Centre to enter Chinese waters about 40 minutes later.

The 30-metre fishing boat had ploughed into rocks near Dangan Island, about eight nautical miles south of Hong Kong, while returning to the territory.

The ship's six crewmen had been rescued by a fishing boat by the time two marine vessels arrived.

Ship owner Shek Kam-shing, 31, said the police rescue boats had taken a long time to arrive.

'We were all frightened. There were big waves and wind. We were lucky two fishing boats were nearby, otherwise we might have been killed,' he said.