A high-speed ferry traveling from Hong Kong to Macau collided with an “unidentified object” yesterday, injuring 87 people and raising new concerns over maritime safety a year after a ferry crash claimed 39 lives.
Last month, Hong Kong marked the one-year anniversary of a fatal ferry collision off Lamma island, its worst maritime disaster in more than 40 years that sparked widespread shock in a territory usually proud of its safety record.
In the latest accident, the hydrofoil Madeira carrying 105 passengers and 10 crew hit “an unidentifiable object” at about 1:15am near one of Hong Kong’s small outlying islands, boat operator TurboJet said.
“We know 87 people were injured, three of whom are in a serious condition,” a Hong Kong government spokeswoman said.
Japan’s foreign ministry said three Japanese nationals were hurt in the ferry accident, one of whom sustained head injuries and was still in hospital.
It was not clear what the object was, but passengers described being hurled out of their seats by the force of the nighttime collision.
“There was suddenly a loud bang. The ferry was thrown upwards. Then many passengers were thrown out from their seats,” one passenger, surname Wong, was quoted as saying by Hong Kong’s Apple Daily.
Multiple passengers were stretchered into ambulances by emergency services staff, some wrapped in neck braces and breathing through oxygen masks.
One passenger told Hong Kong television the crash felt like a “very big bang.”
“I could hear the sound ‘bang,’” he said.
Hong Kong’s waters are notoriously crowded. Hundreds of vessels, from rickety wooden sampans to enormous container ships, ply the shipping routes that crisscross the territory every day.
Ferries are a vital part of the transport network, connecting the main urban areas to Hong Kong’s numerous outlying islands, the mainland and Macau, but a spate of recent crashes has caused alarm.
James To (涂謹申), a Democratic Party lawmaker who has lobbied on behalf of the family members of those killed in last year’s crash near Lamma, said that there were growing concerns over safety standards for vessels traveling in Hong Kong waters.
“What I am concerned [about] is the safety of vessels and the system that operates them,” To said.
Three boats were scrambled to search the scene, but failed to find any object in the water, fire officials said.