As the rest of Hong Kong sleeps, a small group conducts a dramatic sea mission While most of Hong Kong is safely riding out Typhoon Imbudo at home on Wednesday night, the team at the Marine Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre is hard at work. From their control room in the Macau ferry terminal in Central they battle to direct a search-and-rescue mission for the 1,600-tonne Fufeng, a cargo ship drifting off Daya Bay. A map of the east coast of Hong Kong is spread on a table at the centre of the control room. Situation reports on Typhoon Imbudo flow in. Team members are liaising with Guangdong authorities as well as other government departments. But the core of the operation is a high-frequency radio workstation. 'Romeo-Sara, this is MRCC from Hong Kong. Could you give me an update and confirm that none of the survivors have been rescued so far?' search and rescue co-ordinator Stephen Wong calmly asks his Government Flying Service colleagues over the radio at 9.51pm. The response is weak but clear enough - affirmative. The ship is reportedly drifting out of control in winds gusting up to 110 knots. The engine room has lost power while both its anchors have failed to grip the sea bed. Its 16 crew are desperate to be rescued, but it is too dangerous for the rescuers to land a helicopter on the wildly rocking ship. Captain Wong hatches a rescue plan - ask the crew members to launch their lifeboat and move away from the ship so rescuers in the helicopter can reach them safely. But the plan fails when a technical problem prevents the lifeboats from being dropped. At 10.02pm the rescue helicopter aborts its mission and flies back to Hong Kong. Captain Wong looks puzzled. 'In normal circumstances the facilities on the cargo vessel should be well capable of handling emergencies under very strong winds. Why can't it work now?' he asks his partners in Guangdong by radio. The tension in the control room lessens in the following hour, as the team waits for another chance to stage the mission. 'There is no immediate danger, though it is a marine disaster in terms of wind strength,' said Captain Wong. 'All we can do now is wait. They can still be saved. It's a game of chance. We just can't put our rescuers and helicopters at too much risk right now.' At 10.40pm, the signal 8 is hoisted. The team whisper among themselves for a while. 'The signal came five minutes later than our guess,' one member said. Shortly after that, the centre's chief, Chu Wah-sau, and the principal information officer arrive. Exciting news comes through at 11.55pm when the flying service sends another team to the scene. 'They must be another squad. I can tell from their professionalism and confidence in their talk,' Captain Wong says. But an unusually long silence on the radio has alerted him. 'They must all be working,' he says. 'All we fear is that silence. Please. No more incidents.' The team cheers up when the flight crew comes back on air. Once again the message is very faint but clear - the helicopters are to send rescuers down to the vessel. Captain Wong immediately alerts the mainland tug boat on the scene and asks it to relay a message to the Fufeng's crew to wait on the upper deck for the rescuers. The radio then stays silent until 1.27am, when they hear that a rescuer has landed on the vessel. The tension in the control room builds. At 1.52am, news breaks from the radio that 14 of the crew have been airlifted from danger while the remaining two are waiting on board the ship. There is clearly relief among the team, though again they remain silent - no applause, backslapping or cheers. But the success of the mission demonstrates their professionalism. 'Let's call the ambulance to stand by at the airport to pick up the crew,' said Captain Wong. 'Romeo-Sara, this is MRCC ...' The team continue to work through the night, hardly hearing the roar of the typhoon outside.