At least 25 people were killed, over 100 were injured after two vessels collided on Monday evening off the Lamma Island on the southwest of the Hong Kong Island, the Hong Kong city government said Tuesday.
The incident occurred at the seafront of the Lamma Island, the third largest island in Hong Kong, at about 8:23 p.m. Monday, when Hong Kong residents were on a public holiday celebrating the mid- autumn festival and China's National Day.
One vessel, which sank quickly after the collision, was carrying over 120 passengers and crew. It was rented by the Hong Kong Electric company for carrying its staff and their family members on an evening cruise to watch a massive fireworks celebrating the National Day at the Victoria Harbour.
The other vessel, which was damaged but did not capsize, was a regular ferry operated by the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry company. It was also carrying dozens of passengers, according to local media.
As at 3 a.m. Tuesday, 123 people has been salvaged, among them 25 were dead, including 17 certified dead at scene and eight others certified dead upon arrival of hospitals, the city government said in a statement released early Tuesday morning.
The more than 100 injured, including nine suffering serious injures or were in critical condition, were sent to five local hospitals, it added.
The cause of the incident is still under investigation, so "it is too early to say who should take the responsibility," said Zhong Shaowen, an official from the city's Marine Department on Tuesday morning.
"Rescue works have been difficult overnight due to the low visibility and many obstacles on board, so the death toll might further increases," Wu Jianzhi, an official of the city's Fire Services Department, told reporters Tuesday, adding the rescue action will continue as there might still be people inside the vessel or missing.
Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung has rushed to a pier in the Hong Kong Island near the scene to visit the injured people. He told reporters Monday night that an emergency coordination center has been set up and relevant departments of the city government have made all-out efforts to rescue those who fell into the sea.
"We will do all we can to deal with the aftermath of the accident," said the Chief Executive, who also visited all the five hospitals where the injured were receiving medical treatment throughout the night.
The city's Fire Services Department has deployed seven fire boats, mobilised 210 members (including fire and ambulance personnel) and over 20 ambulances. The Marine Police and Marine Department have deployed 15 and six vessels respectively, while the Government Flying Service has sent out two helicopters to help rescue during the incident, according to the government.
Hong Kong is one of the world's busiest shipping channels, and the Lamma Island locates near one of Hong Kong's busiest shipping lanes.