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At least 36 dead after Hong Kong ferry hits party boat

Tyrone Siu / Reuters

Rescuers search for survivors in a partially-submerged boat after two vessels collided in Hong Kong waters on Monday.

Updated at 11:16 p.m. ET: At least 36 people died and dozens were injured when a ferry carrying more than 120 people on a company outing collided with another ferry and sank near an island south of Hong Kong on Monday night in one of the city's worst maritime accidents.

The ferry belonging to the Hong Kong Electric Company was taking staff and family members to watch a fireworks display to celebrate China's National Day and mid-autumn festival when it hit the other ship and quickly began sinking near Lamma island.

Some survivors said people had to break windows to swim to the surface. "We thought we were going to die. Everyone was trapped inside," said another middle-aged woman.

Teams of men in white coats, green rubber gloves and yellow helmets carried corpses off a police launch in body bags on Tuesday. Local media reported that children were among the dead.

More than 100 people were sent to five hospitals and nine people suffered serious injuries or remain in critical condition, the government said in a statement.

The search for victims would continue overnight on Tuesday, the fire department said, because it was uncertain whether there were more people unaccounted for in the incident.

The crash took place at 8:23 p.m. as a boat was traveling from Lamma Island towards the main island of Hong Kong to view the National Day fireworks display.


It was hit by a passenger ferry that regularly travels the 40-minute route between Hong Kong's Central District to Yung Shue Wan, a former fishing village on Lamma that is now favored by tourists and expatriate professionals.

More than 120 people were aboard the Hong Kong utility vessel.

 

"Low visibility and many obstacles on board" made rescue difficult, according to the fire department.

Many passengers trapped in the flooded upturned ferry before it sank, Reuters reported, citing survivors.

"The rear of the ferry started to sink," a survivor told the Post. "I suddenly found myself deep under the sea. I swam hard and tried to grab a life buoy. I don’t know where my two kids are."

 

Richard A. Brooks / AFP - Getty Images

A victim is carried ashore by rescue personnel after a ferry carrying about 120 people collided with another commercial vessel off Hong Kong late Monday.

The government initially said a ferry collided with a tugboat.

Later, it said both boats were passenger vessels, but did not give details.

Several local media outlets reported that the second boat was a ferry operated by Hong Kong & Kowloon ferry.

That vessel was carrying about 100 passengers, some of whom were slightly injured, the South China Morning Post, citing Radio and Television Hong Kong.

"Relevant government departments are making all-out efforts to rescue people who fell into the sea after the collision. Senior officials and I will closely monitor the situation. We will do whatever we can for remedial actions,” said Hong Kong's top government official Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Monday night.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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