Twenty-six seafarers are feared missing after a Chinese vessel split in two close to the eye of Typhoon Chaba on Saturday, the Guangdong Maritime Search and Rescue Centre has said.

The centre said a fourth member of the crew was rescued on Monday, after Hong Kong’s Government Flying Service (GFS) retrieved three crew members from the vessel around 300 kilometres southwest of the territory.

Chinese vessel fujinf001 GFS
The Chinese vessel Fujing001. Photo: Government Flying Service.

The GFS received a rescue call from the Hong Kong Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre at 7:25 a.m. on Saturday whilst a T8 storm signal was in effect. They dispatched two H175 rescue helicopters as well as a CL605 fixed-wing aircraft to the area. China rescue vessels were also on the scene.

Leung Man-chiu, a senior pilot with GFS, said on Commercial Radio on Monday morning that the rescue mission has been challenging since the helicopters faced a detour around numerous wind turbines and rescuers had to work against winds of 140 kilometres per hour.

The wind turbines hindered their routes, Leung said. The rescue squad had to choose a different path owing to safety concerns.

The visibility was only between one and two kilometres, according to Leung, who said that the GFS tried contacting the crew members via an emergency channel but did not receive a response from the vessel.

Four rescued

Around 30 people were on board the Chinese ship Fujing001, according to the GFS. The majority of the crew members had jumped into the water when the ship snapped in two just outside Hong Kong’s territorial waters, Leung said.

Chinese vessel fujinf001 GFS
Photo: Government Flying Service.

Three people were saved on the first day and sent to North Lantau Hospital. On the third day of the rescue mission, the Guangdong Maritime Search and Rescue Centre reported that one more sailor had been saved, bringing the total number of seafarers who had been saved to four.

Typhoon Chaba thrashed Hong Kong over the weekend. The Observatory kept the T8 signal in force until late Saturday afternoon as the storm made landfall near Zhanjiang.

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Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.