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October 1, 2012

Hong Kong ferry collision kills at least 36

At least 36 people have been killed and dozens more injured after two ferries collided near an island south of Hong Kong on the night of Monday 1 October.

By Chris Lo

At least 36 people have been killed and dozens more injured after two ferries collided near an island south of Hong Kong on the night of Monday 1 October.

A ferry owned by the Hongkong Electric Company, being used to carry company staff to Victoria Harbour to celebrate China’s National Day, crashed into another vessel near Lamma island just after 8:15pm.

The ferry reportedly began to sink at a rapid rate after the collision, leaving passengers little time to evacuate safely before water flooded the vessel.

The second vessel, owned by Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Holdings, sustained damage to its bow but was able to reach a pier on Lamma island, according to Reuters.

The government announced that 36 bodies had been recovered from the site, with more than 100 passengers and crew from both vessels being treated at various hospitals; nine passengers were reported to be in serious or critical condition.

The Hongkong Electric Company ferry was not overloaded, as its 121 passengers was well below the vessel’s 200-person capacity, said Yuen Sui-see, director of operations at Power Asset Holdings, Hongkong Electric’s parent company.

"After the crash, the other boat continued away, it didn’t stop," Sui-see told reporters.

A maritime department spokesman said: "Normally vessels ought to stay and help other vessels in distress. But what we heard was that the other ship had passengers who were injured and needed help."

Local rescue services reported that the rescue operation was being hampered by the partial submersion of the ferry, as well as poor visibility and clutter inside the ship.

Hong Kong’s acting deputy director of fire services told local television reporters: "We will continue our search. We also don’t rule out that some may have swam to shore themselves and haven’t contacted their families and so may not be accounted for."

The companies involved and Hong Kong authorities are working to discover the cause of the collision; a spokesperson for Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry said the second ferry’s captain is "not well" and has not been able to make a statement yet.

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