Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Dozens missing in shipwreck during South China Sea typhoon

HONG KONG (AFP) – Over two dozen crew members are unaccounted for after their ship broke into two during a typhoon in the South China Sea yesterday, with rescuers scrambling to find them, officials said.

An engineering vessel 160 nautical miles southwest of Hong Kong “suffered substantial damage and broke into two pieces” and the 30-member crew abandoned ship, according to the Hong Kong Government Flying Service.

Three people had been rescued as of 3pm and were taken to hospital for treatment, authorities said.

Dramatic 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 other crew members may have been swept away by waves before the first helicopter arrived, according to a government statement.

Typhoon Chaba earlier formed in the central part of the South China Sea and yesterday afternoon made landfall in Guangdong province in southern China. Rescuers in Hong Kong were notified of the incident at 7.25am and found the ship near Chaba’s centre, where harsh weather conditions and nearby wind farms made the operation “more difficult and dangerous”.

The ship’s location recorded wind speeds of 144 kilometres per hour and waves that were 10 metres high, authorities said. The Government Flying Service dispatched two sorties of fixed-wing aircraft and four helicopter sorties, with mainland Chinese authorities also dispatching a rescue boat.

Rescuers said they would increase the search area “due to the large number of people missing” and extend the operation into the night.

A sinking ship in the South China Sea, 300 kilometres south of Hong Kong, as Typhoon Chaba was moving in the area. PHOTO: Hong Kong Government Flying Service