Three boats lost, 74 Guangdong fishermen missing in Typhoon Wutip

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 12:18pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 September, 2015, 10:37pm

Seventy-four fishermen from Guangdong are missing in rough seas near the Paracel Islands, after three fishing boats were sunk by Typhoon Wutip in the South China Sea.

Five boats, all registered in Taishan , Guangdong, one of them to a Hong Kong owner, issued distress calls on Sunday evening, according to the Jiangmen city government, which administers Taishan.

State media late yesterday said 14 people had been rescued, while 83 were safe on the surviving fishing boats, including the Hong Kong-owned Taisha 1698. The other boat, however, had lost power and was drifting, the Jiangmen government said.

Five survivors, some with broken bones, were airlifted to hospitals in Sanya , Hainan , China News Service reported. "The waves were as high as 10 metres," one said.

Chen Songyin, captain of the Yuetaiyu 61008, which did not sink, told Xinhua the sea looked fairly calm early on Sunday but worsened by late morning.

"It was too late to leave at that time," he said. "By 2pm, visibility was less than 10 metres, and the TV antenna and satellite telephone on the ship were destroyed [by the typhoon]."

Zhuo Guoxiong, a Jiangmen government propaganda official, said: "No Hong Kong people were on board the five boats."

Two Hong Kong Government Flying Service fixed-wing planes were called out to help search for the missing crew yesterday.

The Hong Kong Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre received a call from mainland authorities at about 6.30am yesterday.

Government Flying Service deputy manager Emily Wong said the weather and visibility at the site were good. "Our crew spotted a suspected life raft and a life jacket drifting in the scene, but no survivor or missing boat was discovered," she said.

The People's Liberation Army South Sea Fleet sent seven warships, a helicopter and 10 rescue teams to join the search. The Hainan provincial government, Maritime Police and Ministry of Transport together sent seven planes and 13 ships.

Xinhua said that changing wind directions and waves up to four metres high hampered search efforts.

A man whose brother-in-law was on board one of the boats that sank boats said: "We've lost contact with him. The five boats often travelled to the islands for fishing. They should be very experienced in the stormy seas. We are very worried and surprised when we heard the news."

Wutip made landfall on Vietnam's central coast yesterday packing winds of up to 103km/h with gusts up to 133km/h, Vietnam's National Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting Centre said. Schools were shut, boats ordered ashore and 70,000 people moved to shelters as trees were uprooted and roofs torn off houses.