Typhoon Wutip wreaks havoc in southeast Asia
At least 75 fishermen missing near Paracel Islands as strong gales hamper rescue
Fishermen drive a boat next to fishing ships docked at a port to shelter from Typhoon Wutip in Sanya, in China’s Hainan province. Photograph: Reuters
China’s president Xi Jinping called for an all-out rescue effort after the powerful Typhoon Wutip sank at least two fishing boats near the Paracel Islands on Sunday, leaving 75 fishermen missing, before moving on to lash the coast of Vietnam.
The Chinese president urged local authorities in southern China to do everything in their power to find the missing or stranded and minimise casualties. By yesterday afternoon, rescuers had found 14 survivors following the devastating category 1 typhoon.
Altogether five fishing boats from southern China’s Guangdong province, with a total of 171 people aboard, were caught by Typhoon Wutip.
Two boats, with 88 fishermen aboard, were lost on Sunday afternoon as they attempted to navigate gales near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by China, Philippines and Vietnam, about 330km from Hainan island in southern China.
The Hainan provincial government sent six aircraft and 10 ships to the site of the accident, the Xinhua news agency reported, and three aircraft and two ships had arrived at the scene by midday yesterday. However, rescue operations were hampered by strong gales and high waves on the sea, according to the Hainan maritime search and rescue centre.
Authorities said the fishermen had received typhoon warnings, but had underestimated the impact of the storm. Instead of going ashore, they laid their ships in a lagoon to ride out the storm, but were capsized by the typhoon.
The storm caused havoc as millions were travelling for China’s Golden Week festival, when hundreds of millions were on the road visiting family.
Thailand and Vietnam were preparing for devastation, even though the typhoon was downgraded to a tropical storm as it made landfall in Vietnam yesterday, where winds of 117 kilometres per hour uprooted trees, cut power lines and damaged more than 1,000 houses in Vietnam. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from the storm’s path over the previous day.
There were also fears of landslides and flooding in the wake of Typhoon Wutip.
In Thailand, officials warned that further heavy rains could inundate already flood-hit areas. At least 22 people have been killed in this year’s flooding.