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Typhoon Hato

Hong Kong’s Government Flying Service rescues 39 sailors from vessels stranded by Hato’s might

Operation took place in dangerous conditions with low visibility due to rain and strong winds

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 9:47am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 11:06am

Air-sea rescuers battled turbulent waters, heavy rain and hurricane-force winds to save 39 sailors from four stranded vessels caught up as Typhoon Hato made itself felt in the seas around Hong Kong on Wednesday.

Two of the sailors had to go to hospital.

The vessels, which had gone aground, were among more than 10 that ran into trouble west of Guishan Island off Zhuhai, about 15 nautical miles southwest of Hong Kong. Some of them sank or capsized.

Hong Kong’s Government Flying Service started sending helicopters after getting an alert about a grounded cargo vessel at 1.45pm, four hours after the Hong Kong Observatory issued typhoon signal No 10 as Hato approached.

Rescuers found about 10 vessels sunk or capsized, Ivan Tsang Kwok-hin, the Government Flying Service’s deputy manager of flight operations said.

Rescuers in helicopters made eight flights until about 7.10pm, pulling the sailors, thought to be from the mainland, to safety. An unconscious male crew member and another suffering from hypothermia were taken to a local hospital.

Tsang said rescuers faced difficulties as the area was affected by hurricane-force winds with low clouds and heavy rain with poor visibility. The sea was rough, with a 10- to 14-metre swell.

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“The weather was really bad during the initial few flights. The wind was strong, at least 40 knots. Visibility was 7km but dropped below 3km because of the rain … it was undoubtedly dangerous,” Tsang said.

He added that the Guangdong authorities had also sent a rescue vessel. The number of people they saved was unknown.

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Separately, a 66-metre cargo vessel was seen tilting in choppy waters outside Discovery Bay Marina Club on Lantau Island at about 10am.

The captain managed to pull it closer to the club. All 10 crew members managed to disembark without any injuries, but the vessel finally went aground at nearby Nim Shue Wan.

The Marine Department said it would follow up on the incident.