A yacht carrying two Britons, an American, a Canadian and a Filipino disappeared while sailing in waters that were lashed by a storm last week, the Philippine coast guard has said.
A coast guard search team on a plane have spotted what appeared to be a floating body, orange objects and an oil slick in the high seas about 400 km west of the north-western Philippine city of Laoag on Tuesday, but it has yet to confirm if they were from the yacht Europa, coast guard spokesman Cmdr Armand Balilo said.
Hong Kong and the Philippines have dispatched planes and alerted ships in the area.
The British embassy in Manila confirmed two of its nationals were on board.
“We are liaising urgently with the local authorities concerning search and rescue operations and providing support to the families,” it said in a statement.
The yacht left Hong Kong on Thursday and was supposed to arrive in Subic Bay, north west of Manila, no later than Monday.
An emergency position-indicating radio beacon on the boat was activated on Saturday, indicating the vessel was experiencing difficulties, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club said in a statement.
Hong Kong’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre dispatched a search plane and passing ships were asked to be on the lookout but “no yacht, life raft or debris was detected”, the club said. Hong Kong and the Philippines deployed one aircraft each to continue a co-ordinated search on Tuesday, it added.
The Hong Kong-registered yacht was owned and skippered by Robin Wyatt and had four crew members who were all experienced sailors, according to the club. The Philippine coast guard identified Mr Wyatt as one of the two Britons on the Europa.
A tropical storm, Mujigae, blew out of the northern Philippines on Saturday and intensified at sea into a powerful typhoon before slamming into the southern Chinese province of Guangdong the following day. At least 10 people were killed in the two countries, Chinese and Philippine authorities said.
More than 200 Filipino fishermen were reported missing in Mujigae’s aftermath, including many who ventured out to sea from the north-western Philippine provinces of Pangasinan and La Union despite warnings of rough seas, Manila’s office of civil defence said.
Many sailed back safely after taking shelter somewhere and others were rescued, but a few dozen remain missing, officials said.