Helicopter rescue teams braved strong winds and waves yesterday to save 16 sailors from a ship that lost its rudder and was pitching wildly at sea as a powerful typhoon swept toward China.
"It was night and the weather conditions were extremely poor," said Hung Shung-leung, a spokesman of the Hong Kong Maritime Search and Rescue Center. "The ship was being rocked badly. It made the rescue operation very difficult."
The overnight operation took 11 hours as the crews repeatedly lowered rescuers onto the swaying deck of the Fu Feng to lift the Chinese sailors to safety. Three helicopters and three airplanes were deployed and the entire crew was rescued, apparently with no injuries, Hung said.
The storm struck the Chinese city of Yangjiang in southern Guangdong province late yesterday morning, with ocean waves pouring over embankments and threatening to smash fishing boats, said a city anti-flood official who identified himself only by the surname Liu. Yangjiang is about 240km west of Hong Kong.
Typhoon Imbudo was packing winds of up to 170kph, according to the Hong Kong observatory.
"The wind shows no sign of weakening," said another anti-flood official in the Chinese city of Maoming. The official declined to give his name.
Imbudo battered the northern Philippines on Tuesday, killing at least seven people and forcing thousands to evacuate.
As the storm approached China, people in the provincial capital Guangzhou were evacuated from poorly constructed buildings to shelters and some kindergartens were closed, said a city government official.
Water was released from four artificial lakes in Guangzhou in anticipation of heavy rainfall, said the official, who declined to give her name.
In Hong Kong, at least 42 airline flights were canceled and 46 were delayed or diverted, while some ferry services were scrapped after meteorologists raised a typhoon warning on Wednesday.
The warning was downgraded yesterday morning, but financial markets opened a half hour late as the storm moved farther away and workers cleared trees that had been knocked down. One woman was hurt by a falling sign.