‘Ghost ship’ towing aborted as Typhoon Mitag lashes Taiwan

High waves are seen in waters off South Korea's southern resort island of Jeju on 1 October 2019, as Typhoon Mitag, the season's 18th, moves north toward the country. Credit: Yonhap/Yonhap News Agency/PA Images

Local harbour authorities in Taiwan’s Yilan County aborted plans to tow a drifting vessel that had run aground as Typhoon Mitag bore down on the island on 30 September 2019.

The unmanned vessel was found to have lost power when discovered on 26 September. It is believed that the vessel was used as a sand barge and could have been cut adrift in the Yangtze River amid the current typhoon season.

The Chinese words for “Wuhu Port”, a port in Anhui province, were discernible on the hull, suggesting the vessel came from China.

The vessel is believed to have drifted to Taiwan via the Sea of Japan.

Due to the state of the vessel, it was dubbed a “ghost ship” in Taiwanese media.

Inspections on 29 September showed that the vessel had suffered water ingress, and oil was floating on top of the water in the hull.

Arrangements were made for two tugs to tow the ship away on 30 September, but the plan was cancelled owing to the heavy rains and strong winds of the typhoon.

Oil booms were placed around the vessel but were apparently blown away by the typhoon.

Yilan County magistrate Lin Zi-Miao expressed displeasure over the officials’ failure to act on the vessel earlier. Fishermen and tour operators are also concerned about possible oil leakages.

Taiwan’s navy was on standby as Typhoon Mitag approached the northeastern part of the island.

With gusts of up to 162 km per hour, Typhoon Mitag caused the largest typhoon-related impact on northeastern Taiwan in two years.

The Ministry of National Defense said that more than 34,000 soldiers, including 135 from the marines and special forces, and 5,100 military vehicles and equipment are currently on standby.

Several rubber boats and two amphibious assault vehicles were moved to Linkou and Su’ao, two areas expected to be hit hard.

Typhoon Mitag is expected to move northwards China’s Zhejiang province before heading into the Yellow Sea and possibly bearing down on the Korean Peninsula.