HONG KONG — The death toll from a ferry collision in Hong Kong waters rose to 38 on Tuesday, as seven crew members, including the two captains, were arrested on suspicion of endangering people’s lives at sea.
The collision — one of the worst maritime accidents in Hong Kong’s recent history — happened late Monday when the vessel carrying some 120 people to see fireworks to celebrate China’s National Day hit a passenger ferry en route to the islands.
The impact flung most of the passengers, including children, into choppy waters and caused the vessel to sink within minutes, leaving only its upturned bow visible above the water.
A government statement said of the people pulled from the sea by rescuers, 30 were confirmed dead at the scene and a further eight were certified dead on arrival at hospital. Five children were among the confirmed dead.
A total of 101 survivors were sent to hospital, many suffering from hypothermia. Four were in a serious or critical condition.
Those arrested included the 56-year-old captain and two crew members from the sunken vessel, and the 54-year-old captain and three crew from the ferry. Police said more arrests may follow.
The boat was owned by Hong Kong Electric and was taking employees and families to the watch a firework display over Victoria Harbour.
The collision occurred near Lamma Island, a 25-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong island.
One man pulled from the water described how the boat sank quickly after being hit at high speed.
“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,” he told local newspapers.
Others described how they were trapped and had to break windows to escape as the vessel sank vertically “Titanic-style.”
Following the accident, the other vessel, a ferry owned by the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry company, continued to Lamma where a few passengers were treated for minor injuries.
Hong Kong Electric’s director of operations Yuen Sui-see said the captain was experienced sailor and blamed the other vessel for the tragedy.
“The ferry rammed the side of our boat. They didn’t bother and just left,” he said.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chung-ying promised a full investigation and a day of mourning on Thursday.