THE owner of a Hong Kong vessel and a mainland crewman were missing after a fire and explosion sank their boat off the Ninepin Islands yesterday. The 25-metre Aberdeen-based ship was on its way to Hong Kong from Shanwei in China when the engine room on the lower deck caught fire at about 2.30 am. The five people on board tried to put out the fire but were forced to jump overboard when explosions erupted. Mainland fishermen Xu Rongxing, 26, Xu Rongchang, 23, and Li Zaode, 54, were plucked from the water by Marine Police. Rescuers could not locate the owner, Lee Kwan, 38, or Li Yaoliang, 48, who were believed to have been caught by strong currents in the area, about five nautical miles southeast of the Ninepin Islands. The rescued trio were taken to Prince of Wales Hospital where they were treated and discharged. Coxswain Li Zaode was at the wheelhouse while four others were sleeping in the hold when the fire occurred. 'I saw smoke billowing out from the engine room underneath me. I immediately woke the others. 'We poured buckets of water from the ship's tank on to the flames. 'As we were fighting the fire several explosions erupted from the engine room in the middle of the boat,' he said. The fishermen ran to the bow and jumped. Xu Rongxing, the owner's brother-in-law, said the group clung to a rope which was tied to the boat to prevent them from being washed away by current. 'It was cold in the water and the sea was choppy. The waves were about four metres high. 'We were in the water for about an hour before a Marine Police launch arrived. 'We knew there were two others missing after we were picked up by police. I fear they might have been washed away by big waves although they were good swimmers,' he said. The Hong Kong-registered fishing craft sank after the blaze was put out at 10.14 am. Four police launches, one fire boat and a Government Flying Service helicopter joined the search for the two missing men.