A boat en route to the famed Victoria Harbor, carrying the employees of Hong Kong’s electric company and their families to watch fireworks display, collided with a commuter ferry Monday night and sank leaving at least 36 people dead, news agencies reported citing Hong Kong authorities.
The two vessels collided near Lamma Island off the southwestern coast of Hong Kong Island.
The boat suddenly tilted and was half under water following the collision at around 8.30 p.m. local time, the Wall Street Journal reported. The ferry, which sustained minor damage after the collision, proceeded toward the dock to let its passengers get off. The captain of the ferry, operated by the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry company on a regularly scheduled service, did not stop the ship as he was afraid that it might sink too, local news media reported.
The boat, Lamma IV, had the capacity to carry 200 people, but only about 120 were onboard, a Hong Kong Electric spokesperson was quoted saying by the Wall Street Journal. The company boat is generally used to ferry staff to the power station on the island, which supplies power to Hong Kong, but was used as a pleasure boat on the holiday night of the collision.
In the ongoing search, rescuers pulled more than 100 people who were sent to hospitals. Officials said 36 bodies had been recovered while nine others with critical injuries were receiving medical care, reported the BBC.
The government statement said low visibility and obstacles on the boat made rescue efforts difficult. Rescuers used flood lights to search for survivors.
“Rescue action will continue as Fire Service Department (FSD) cannot rule out that there are still people inside the vessel or missing,” the statement added.
FSD said 28 boats, two helicopters and 20 ambulances were involved in the rescue operation.
The incident occurred at the end of a long holiday weekend marking the mid-autumn festival that coincides this year with China's National Day Oct. 1.
Hong Kong chief Leung Chun-ying said the government had mobilized all its resources to respond to the accident.
“All our emergency rescue teams are concentrated there. We can see that bit by bit, the people in the water are being rescued,” he was quoted as saying by news media at a pier close to the accident scene.
Hong Kong Electric’s Director of Operations S.S. Yuen said it was a “very happy holiday” which “turned out to be such a tragic incident.”
Victoria Harbor, a major tourist attraction of Hong Kong, lies in the middle of the territory's dense urban region.