Francisco weakens to depression, 4 fishermen still missing

Updated: 2007-09-25 16:47

HAIKOU -- The search is continuing for the four fishermen who were thrown overboard as their boat tried to return to land to escape tropical storm Francisco.

The vessel, carrying eight fishermen, sank while in the Qiongzhou Strait, still 45 miles from shore, after hitting a reef.

Rescuers had saved four of the fishermen, all residents in Danzhou in western Hainan, by Tuesday, said Zhang Jie, deputy director of Hainan Provincial Maritime Affairs Bureau.

Captain of the fishing boat Zheng Zhuoming, who was saved on Monday, recalled the boat was on a return journey from Zhuhai, a port city in South China's Guangdong Province, when the tropical storm approached.

"While we were passing by Puqian harbor of Wenchang, we were informed of the tropical storm and decided to moor the boat in the harbor," said Zheng, "but since we were not familiar with the navigable route, our fishing boat hit a reef and the bilge broke.

"The boat quickly filled with water and sank within 20 minutes. All of us fell off into the sea," said Zheng.

Francisco, the 14th tropical storm to hit China this year, on Tuesday continued to move westwards, but has weakened to a depression since making landfall in Hainan on Monday, according to the Hainan Provincial Meteorological Observatory.

More than 30 ships, including the train ferry service, have been given the all-clear to resume normal service.

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