Search under way after Chinese boat reportedly carrying 39 capsizes
An overturned boat has been found in the area Australian and international crews are searching for a Chinese fishing vessel, which went missing off Perth's coast reportedly carrying almost 40 people.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority received a distress signal at 5:30am yesterday and continued to coordinate the search today.
Reports on Wednesday said 39 people were missing more than 24 hours after the Chinese fishing boat operating in the Indian Ocean capsized.
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Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said the accident happened about 3am (5am AEST) Tuesday.
The report said the crew includes 17 from China, 17 from Indonesia and five from the Philippines.
AMSA described the search area as a remote location in the Indian Ocean, about 5000 kilometres north-west of Perth.
"Late yesterday bulk carrier Navios Taurus sighted an upturned hull in the search area. No survivors have been found as yet," AMSA said in a statement.
"The Australian Defence Force aircraft will return to the search area today after refuelling overnight."
"Weather conditions yesterday were extreme with 120km/h winds and seven-metre seas. Conditions have abated today with 40–50km/h winds and two–three-metre seas."
The Australian Defence Force also provided a P-8A Poseidon aircraft to assist in the search for survivors.
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Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Qiang have ordered Chinese diplomats abroad, as well as the agriculture and transportation ministries, to assist in the search for survivors.
“All-out efforts” must be made in the rescue operation, Xi was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.
Li ordered unspecified measures to “reduce casualties and strengthen safety management of fishing vessels at sea to ensure safe maritime transport and production,” Xinhua said.
No word was given on the cause of the capsizing.
Indonesia and the Philippines have also expressed their willingness to join in the search.
The Philippine Coast Guard Command Centre said Wednesday it was monitoring the situation and coordinating with the Chinese Embassy in Manila, as well as search and rescue teams operating near the vessel’s last known location.
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Merchant and fishing vessels in the area were also searching for survivors Wednesday.
A Perth-based Challenger rescue aircraft will drop a buoy to help with drift modelling to further assist in the search, the agency said.
The Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028 was based in the eastern coastal province of Shandong, operated by the Penglai Jinglu Fishery Co Ltd, according to reports.
Another Chinese vessel, Lu Peng Yuan Yu 018, is operating near to the upturned hull and has been asked to conduct a grid search for survivors, according to the Indonesian agency.
China is believed to operate the world’s largest fishing fleet. Many of them stay at sea for months or even years at a time, supported by Chinese state maritime security agencies and a sprawling network of support vessels.
Chinese squid fishing ships have been documented using wide nets to illegally catch already overfished tuna as part of a surge in unregulated activity in the Indian Ocean, according to a report released in 2021.
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Norway-based watchdog group Trygg Mat Tracking found that the number of squid vessels in the high seas of the Indian Ocean — where fishing of the species is not regulated — has increased six-fold since 2016.
The US Coast Guard was also involved in a dangerous confrontation with Chinese vessels not far from Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands in 2022 during a mission to inspect the vessels for any signs of illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing.
Chinese fishing vessels operating illegally are known to sail "dark," with their mandatory tracking device that gives a ship’s position either switched off, transmitting intermittently, or providing false identifiers.
– Reported with the Associated Press