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74 fishermen missing as typhoon sweeps South China Sea

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2013-10-01 08:08

Three Chinese fishing vessels foundered in heavy seas caused by Typhoon Wutip, and 74 of the 88 people aboard are missing, authorities said on Monday.

Fourteen fishermen have been rescued.

Both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have urged government departments to do their best in the rescue work, Xinhua reported on Monday.

The vessels were among a group of five fishing boats that were caught by the storm on Sunday afternoon near the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea, about 330 km from the island province Hainan, sources at the Hainan Maritime Search and Rescue Center said.

The Hainan provincial government dispatched six airplanes and 10 ships on a search and rescue mission for the fishermen. Three airplanes and two ships arrived at the scene by noon on Monday.

Authorities in nearby Sansha city mobilized 350 local island residents and soldiers and urged nearby fishing vessels to join the search and rescue efforts.

The fishermen had been warned about the approaching typhoon, but they did not return to port. Instead, they chose to ride out the storm and sought shelter from the wind at a lagoon south of Shanhu Island, but the typhoon capsized three boats.

The rescue operations have been hampered by strong gales and high waves, the rescue center said.

As of Monday noon, 52 ships had sought shelter in waters close to the islands of Chenhang and Shanhu. Their crews have received aid from soldiers stationed at Xisha Islands.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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