Passenger Vessel Collision Results in One of Hong Kong's Most Deadly Maritime Accidents [VIDEO]

Published Nov 19, 2012 10:38 AM by The Maritime Executive

At least 38 people have been pronounced dead after two passenger vessels collided on Monday evening in Hong Kong. Authorities have launched an official investigation into what is being called the area’s deadliest ferry accident in recent times.

Hong Kong was in the midst of celebrating China’s National Day on Monday, resulting in the area’s already bustling waters being unusually overcrowded.

Police have already arrested six (6) of the crewmembers from both vessels on the suspicion of endangering passengers, reports CNN. It is still unclear as to how many persons are missing or unaccounted for, but authorities are to continue search and rescue operations for at least two more days.

One of the two vessels, owned by The Hong Kong Electric Company, was carrying company employees and their families to watch the scheduled fireworks display when it was struck by a passenger ferry traveling from Hong Kong Island to Lamma Island. The collision occurred off Lamma's coast around 8:20 p.m. locally, dropping more than 100 people into the water.

Witnesses onboard recall the passenger ferry going on full speed to coming to an instant and abrupt stop. One passenger said that as the now damaged ferry began to move toward the pier in a small town on Lamma, he could see the other vessel starting to sink into the water vertically.

The Hong Kong Fire Services Department (FSD) led the rescue and confirmed that the vessel began to sink almost immediately after the impact. Local reports claim that low visibility and other obstacles on board made work difficult for rescuers. The FSD said its rescue boats, including a diving support vessel, managed to pull 123 people from the water.

Residents on Lamma reported being woken up in the middle of the night by the massive rescue operation being carried out offshore.

Today, the front of the stricken vessel was still sticking out of the water, fastened to a barge equipped with a crane just a few hundred meters from the coast of Lamma. Emergency services boats surrounded the wreck site, and divers conducted a search. Despite a hole torn in its bow, the passenger ferry was able to dock safely after the crash. Government officials have not yet confirmed if passengers aboard that vessel were injured.

The current death toll would appear to make the crash Hong Kong's most lethal maritime accident since 1971.