Crew missing after Chinese sand barge overturns in Taiwan Strait

Photo of sunken Jia Liang. Credit: Taiwan Coast Guard

Twelve Chinese crew members remain missing after two sand barges were hit by strong winds in the Taiwan Strait on 6 October 2019.

The barges, Jia Liang and Dong Hong, were transporting sand near the Pescadores Islands, known as Penghu in Taiwan, when they were hit by strong winds.

Local media reports claimed that the barges were classified as river crafts and were thus, ill-equipped to handle the rough weather conditions.

Wind speeds were said to be at 10 km/h and the waves were 6 m high.

Jia Liang sank but all its 13 crew members jumped into the water before the vessel became fully submerged. Nearby fishermen helped to save them. On the other hand, Dong Hong overturned and dozen of its crew members remain missing, sparking fears they may be trapped in the vessel.

A joint rescue effort involving the coastguards of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong is under way.

Patrol vessels have been deployed by the Taiwan and Chinese coastguards, while the Hong Kong coastguard dispatched a fixed-wing aeroplane. The Chinese Coast Guard also sent a helicopter to assist the search-and-rescue effort.

Upon receiving distress signals from the sand barges, the Taiwanese patrol vessel was the first to arrive at the scene and, on confirming the occurrence that Jia Liang had sank, radioed for assistance and alerted nearby ships to avoid the spot.

The coastguards attempted to look for the crew of Dong Hong, but the single-wing aeroplane sent by Hong Kong ran out of fuel and had to leave the scene.

The Taiwan Coast Guard said, “We approached Dong Hong and knocked on the hull to see if there were any signs of life, if there were any persons trapped inside, but didn’t get a response. The weather improved and we’ve expanded our search area.”