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 Monday.
The announcement came days after an engineering vessel 160 nautical miles (296 kilometres) southwest of Hong Kong suffered substantial damage and broke into two pieces during a typhoon.
“As of 3:30 pm 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 Monday, 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.
– ‘Difficult and dangerous’ –
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 7:25 am local time (2325 GMT Friday) 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 (89 miles) per hour and waves that were 10 metres (33 feet) high, authorities said.
Seven planes, 246 boats and 498 fishing vessels have been dispatched to search for the remaining missing persons, the Monday statement by mainland Chinese authorities said.