Four divers who went missing off Penghu County during a research expedition yesterday were recovered safely by a Chinese fishing boat, the National Academy of Marine Research said.
Research assistant Tu Chien-ming (塗建銘), two contract divers and one coach were on the first day of a two-day survey on the marine ecology in the waters around the Taiwan Bank (台灣淺灘), the academy said.
After arriving at the bank 57 nautical miles (106km) southwest of Cimei Islet (七美), they began diving at 10:30am, it said.
However, they failed to resurface at the scheduled time and location, said the captain of their support vessel, the Happiness No. 168.
The captain at 3:43pm reported the situation to the Coast Guard Administration (CGA), which subsequently notified the academy, it said.
The CGA said it dispatched the 3,000-tonne patrol vessel Kaohsiung and the 50-tonne patrol boat PP-5053 to look for the divers, adding that a Black Hawk helicopter at 4pm took off from Taichung to join the search-and-rescue mission.
The academy said that at 4:44pm it received a message from the captain of the Happiness No. 168 saying that the divers had been recovered by a Chinese crab fishing vessel 56 nautical miles off Cimei.
The CGA then instructed the Kaohsiung to retrieve them, it said.
The academy said that the reason for the disappearance was still unclear, but it is investigating the matter.
While the Taiwan Bank is known for its shallow sea floor, tidal currents in the area are stronger than in other parts of the Taiwan Strait, reaching up to 5.5kph, especially at the beginning or middle of a lunar month, said Jan Sen (詹森), an oceanography professor at National Taiwan University.
However, without data about their exact location, the cause of the incident cannot be clarified, Jan added.
Academy president Chiu Yung-fang (邱永芳) yesterday flew to Penghu to meet with the divers, academy vice president Lin Ying-pin (林英斌) said, adding that the academy would provide more information on the cause of the incident once it is available.
Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan and Liu Yu-ching
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