Search continues, hopes dim for Chinese boat survivors

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Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS

Australian aircraft and a multinational fleet of vessels are continuing to scan a vast area of the Indian Ocean as hopes begin to fade for 39 crew of a Chinese fishing vessel that capsized in seven-metre waves.

The Lu Peng - Yuan Yu is believed to have capsized about 3am AEST on Tuesday, with a distress beacon signal received by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Canberra about 5.30am.

China's official Xinhua News Agency cited the country's transport ministry as confirming two bodies had been recovered on Thursday afternoon and that rescuers spotted objects including bags and plastic containers floating on the water.

The stricken vessel's crew are thought to number 17 from China, 17 from Indonesia and five from the Philippines, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.

Weather conditions at the time were extreme, with the passage of Cyclone Fabian bringing 120km/h winds and seven-metre seas, AMSA said.

On the same day, bulk carrier Navios Taurus sighted an upturned hull in the search area, along with some debris. No survivors were sighted.

A total of seven vessels - three merchant ships, a Chinese fishing vessel and three Chinese navy ships - have been engaged in the search, with three Australian aircraft also scanning the ocean.

A naval ship from Sri Lanka is also on its way to the scene.

The 12,000sq km search area has been determined by drift modelling carried out by AMSA, informed by information supplied by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and other sources.

As the search entered its third day the JRCC, which is liaising with the Chinese Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) as they co-ordinate the response, said it still hoped survivors may be found.

"JRCC Australia remains hopeful for a successful outcome, however the time elapsed combined with the weather conditions experienced make survival more challenging," it said in a statement.

Chinese ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian told reporters in Canberra on Thursday he is co-ordinating with the Australian government.

"To this moment, no individual has been found alive whatsoever," he said.

"And now we are co-ordinating further with our Australian colleagues for their actions to be taken."

He said Chinese authorities were grateful for the "humanitarian spirit of the Australian government and Australian colleagues and for the efforts they have made to help search and rescue in that area".

Lu Peng - Yuan Yu is based in the eastern coastal province of Shandong and operated by the Penglai Jinglu Fishery Company.

China is believed to operate the world's largest fishing fleet.

Many of its vessels stay at sea for months or even years at a time, supported by Chinese state maritime security agencies and a sprawling network of support vessels.

with AP