At least 74 fishermen have gone missing after three fishing boats sank in the South China Sea in the path of Typhoon Wutip, Chinese authorities said Monday.

Two of the boats set out from the southern province of Guangdong and sailed close to the Xisha Islands, located some 330 kilometers (200 miles) from Hainan Island, when they were shipwrecked.

Early Monday morning, emergency management services found 13 survivors from the first two boats, after which they continued with their rescue mission.

The course the third fishing boat took is still unknown, and the number of victims could increase.

Authorities said a total of five vessels with 171 people aboard have been affected by Wutip.

On Sunday China raised the alert level to orange, the second most critical after red, as the typhoon approached the coast.

Waves have reached a height of 9 meters (30 feet) in the western part of the South China Sea, while the roughest seas were along the Hainan coast.

Hainan Island welcomes many Chinese tourists at this time of year as the country celebrates its Golden Week starting with National Day on Tuesday.

Wutip is expected to make landfall Tuesday on the central Vietnam coast after its sweeps past China. EFE