At least 36 people died after a boat carrying families to see fireworks to celebrate China’s National Day collided with a ferry near one of Hong Kong’s islands, officials said on Tuesday.
The collision happened when the vessel carrying around 120 people 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 123 people pulled from the sea by rescuers, 28 were confirmed dead at the scene and a further eight were certified dead on arrival at hospital.
About 100 survivors were sent to hospital, many suffering from hypothermia. Nine were in a serious or critical condition.
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.” The boat was owned by Hongkong 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.
Following the accident, the other vessel, a ferry owned by 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-yin promised a full investigation as the search continued on Tuesday.