14 fishermen rescued, 4 dead, 58 missing after Typhoon Wutip
Updated: 2013-10-02 08:05
HAIKOU - Rescuers on Tuesday saved 14 fishermen, retrieved four bodies and are continuing their search for 58 others missing in the South China Sea after Typhoon Wutip has sunk three fishing boats since Sunday afternoon.
A total of 88 fishermen and their boats, all from South China's Guangdong province, went missing near Shanhu Island in the Xisha Islands, about 330 km from China's island province of Hainan.
Fourteen survivors were rescued Monday.
Zhang Jie, a spokesman with the Hainan Maritime Affairs Bureau, said on Tuesday that 22 vessels and four airplanes are still combing the sea for more survivors.
Huang Honghui and Gong Zhimei were among the 14 rescued on Tuesday. The two were drifting amid big waves in a life raft when they were spotted by rescuers on a helicopter at 11:47 am.
"I was thinking about my son. It was the thought of family and life that supported me. Huang and I kept encouraging each other. We never gave up hope," Gong said. "I hadn't seen such big waves in my life. The ship was quickly sunk."
"We grabbed a life raft and never unclenched," Huang said. "We might not have made it if we had to drift on the sea for one day more."
Huang said they only ate two finger-size fish since the ship sank 45 hours ago. "There was no light at all. We were just drifting."
Lifeguard Li Haitao landed on their raft via a rescue sling from the helicopter and helped airlift the survivors to safety.
Huang later told rescuers that their raft began to leak after drifting at sea for two days and nights.
The two survivors only suffered soft tissue injuries. They were offered biscuits and mineral water on the rescue helicopter.
Altogether five fishing boats, including the three that sunk, with a total of 171 people aboard were caught in Typhoon Wutip on Sunday, according to the Hainan Maritime Search and Rescue Center.
The fishermen had received typhoon warnings starting on Friday but did not go ashore. Instead, they placed their ships in a lagoon South of Shanhu Island to avoid gales, but the typhoon overturned their boats.
Wutip gathered power, becoming a super typhoon when it swept across nearby waters on Sunday, packing winds of up to 151.2 km per hour at its eye.
Strong gales and waves have hampered the rescue work, but the sea water temperature in the area is over 20 degrees Celsius, which means a higher chance of survival two days after shipwreck, according to rescuers.
On Tuesday, the Chinese navy added another three warships to the rescue work efforts. So far, seven navy warships have joined the search mission, bringing infrared and radar search equipment as well as more manpower to aid the rescue work.
Meanwhile, the navy barracks on Chenhang Island have provided temporary shelter and food to 319 fishermen trapped by the typhoon.