Twenty-four children and eight adults were rescued from the cold Pacific yesterday after their whale-watching boat was smashed by high waves. The captain had been warned to stay in port, authorities said.

Two people, including the captain, Jerry Weaver, 52, were hospitalized in "extremely critical" condition, with a third person in serious condition.

The three had "no life symptoms" when they arrived at the hospital, but doctors were able to get their hearts beating again, a hospital spokesman said.

Everyone on board the 45-foot fishing vessel San Mateo was rescued, but a Coast Guard spokesman said some had spent more than 45 minutes in the 59-degree water. Officials said the other passengers had a variety of injuries, including broken ankles and wrists, cuts and bruises, abdominal pains and hypothermia.

Morro Bay harbor master Jim Funk said he warned Weaver by radio not to go out because of the rough seas, but said he received no reply.

It was the seventh boating accident in heavy seas off the California coast since last weekend. Three people were killed Sunday when a 50-foot private yacht capsized just outside the Golden Gate in San Francisco Bay.

Meanwhile, state officials reported that the series of storms that battered 22 California coastal counties three weeks ago cost an estimated $96.2 million in damages to homes, businesses and government-owned properties.