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12 bodies found after South China Sea typhoon shipwreck

BEIJING (AFP) – Twelve bodies have been found following a shipwreck in the South China Sea over the weekend that left more than two dozen crew members missing, Chinese authorities said yesterday.

The announcement came days after an engineering vessel 296 kilometres southwest of Hong Kong suffered substantial damage and broke into two pieces during a typhoon.

“As of 3.30pm on July 4, rescue forces found and recovered 12 bodies, suspected to be of victims who drowned, in an area around 50 nautical miles southwest of the site where the vessel sank,” said the Guangdong Maritime Search and Rescue Centre.

“The relevant departments are stepping up identity confirmation work.” A total of 30 crew members abandoned the vessel, Fujing 001, used for offshore wind power construction, after its anchor chain broke in the typhoon, according to Chinese state media outlet CGTN.

The floating crane of the offshore wind farm project was found to be in danger by a monitoring system on Saturday afternoon, and it later sank, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Three people were rescued on Saturday and one more in the early hours of yesterday, according to Chinese state media, leaving 26 still unaccounted for.

Rescuers have expanded the scope of their search around the point of wreckage, with medical workers dispatched on each rescue ship to provide assistance to any crew member found as soon as possible, CCTV said.

Earlier footage provided by Hong Kong authorities showed a person being airlifted onto a helicopter while waves crashed over the deck of the semi-submerged ship below.

The three survivors said that other crew members may have been swept away by waves before the first helicopter arrived, according to a Hong Kong government statement.

Typhoon Chaba formed in the central part of the South China Sea and made landfall in southern China’s Guangdong province on Saturday.

Rescuers in Hong Kong were notified of the incident at 7.25am local time and found the ship near Chaba’s centre.

A helicopter with rescue crew members approaches a sinking ship in the South China Sea, about 300 kilometres south of Hong Kong as Typhoon Chaba was moving in the area. PHOTO: AP