Hong Kong ferry crash: Crews held over ship collision
SEVEN crew members have been arrested after two ships collided in Hong Kong waters, killing 38 people.
Monday night’s collision, on a clear night in one of the most regulated waterways in Asia, was the deadliest maritime accident in more than 40 years off Hong Kong.
Yesterday relatives of the dead went to the scene, on Hong Kong island’s south-west coast, to throw spirit money into the air in memory of those lost. Other relatives waited at the Hong Kong morgue for news of loved ones, missing feared dead.
Police commissioner Tsang Wai-hung said six people had been detained on suspicion of endangering passengers by operating their boat in an unsafe way. Officers later announced a seventh arrest.
Mr Tsang said both crews were suspected of having not “exercised the care required of them by law,” but he would not elaborate.
A ferry, the Sea Smooth operated by Hong Kong and Kowloon (Ferry) Holdings Ltd, which can carry up to 200 passengers, collided with the Lamma IV, which is owned by the Hong Kong Electric Co utility and was taking more than 100 employees and their families to Victoria Harbour to watch a fireworks display in celebration of China’s National Day and mid-autumn festival. The Lamma IV had a crew of three.
The government said 101 people were sent to hospitals, 66 were discharged, and four had serious injuries or were in critical condition.
The ferry was damaged but completed its journey, and some of its passengers were treated for injuries. TV later showed its bow chewed up and chunks missing.
Yuen Sui-see, the director of operations of Power Assets Holdings, the company that owns Hong Kong Electric, said: “There was a boat that came in close and crashed. After the crash, the other boat continued away. It didn’t stop.”
The ferry operator did not return calls seeking comment.
The government said 28 bodies were recovered overnight, and eight more people were declared dead at hospitals. Two bodies found aboard the vessel yesterday raised the death toll to 38, according to government statements. At least four of those killed were children.
Salvage crews yesterday raised the half-submerged Lamma IV using three crane barges.
Survivors told television stations the power company boat started sinking rapidly after the collision.
Though there was no immediate official explanation about how the collision occurred on Hong Kong’s tightly regulated waterways, it appeared human error was involved. Both vessels should have been illuminated by running lights when they crashed near Lamma island off the southwestern coast of Hong Kong island.
Such large-scale accidents are rare for Hong Kong, which has one of Asia’s most advanced infrastructures and economies with first-rate public services. The incident is the deadliest ferry accident since 88 people died during a typhoon in 1971.
It is also the worst loss of life in an accident since a 1996 high-rise fire that killed 41 people.
Lamma is the third-biggest island in Hong Kong and is home to about 6,000 people, including many expatriate Britons.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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