Hong Kong ferry crash hurts many

Updated: 2011-10-22 08:45

By Guo Jiaxue (China Daily)

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Hong Kong ferry crash hurts many

A ferry hit a mooring pillar inside a typhoon shelter at an outlying island in Hong Kong on Friday. More than 70 people were injured in the accident. [Provided to China Daily]

HONGKONG - More than 70 people were injured when a ferry crashed into a mooring pillar inside a typhoon shelter at one of Hong Kong's outlying islands early Friday morning.

Three senior citizens, ranging from 70 to 82 years in age, were seriously injured and are in an intensive care unit (ICU) at a hospital. One of them is reported to be in a critical condition.

The accident occurred at 5:15 am, about an hour before sunrise. A ferry, operated by New Word First Ferry and carrying 145 passengers, sailed from Cheung Chau pier bound for Hong Kong Central. Many of the passengers aboard were sleeping when, just five minutes after setting sail, there was a loud crash, propelling nearly everyone forward.

The 29-meter, double-deck ferry struck the mooring post about 400 meters from the pier. The right side of the ferry's bow had a large hole, leaving the interior steel exposed. Fortunately, the vessel took on no water.

Inside the ferry, though, there was chaos. Some people fell; many hit their heads and a number of people were bleeding, according to a person aboard. It took half an hour for rescue crews to arrive.

A helicopter took nine seriously injured people to hospitals on Hong Kong Island, including two eldely people on stretchers.

The three most seriously injured senior citizens remain in intensive care and a fourth is being held in the hospital for observation. All were reported to have come from the same family. They planned to go downtown and visit the daughter of one of the couples.

They all remained lying on the floor after the crash, according to the daughter, whose name is Chan. She said they had suffered multiple injuries. Chan said her 70-year-old aunt had been critically injured, but her condition was later upgraded to serious.

Chan complained that the ferry crew failed to properly assist the injured. The passengers helped one another until rescuers came.

Divisional Officer of the Fire Services Department Chan Wai-ho said that the most seriously injured passengers were sitting near the entrances and exits of the vessel and were likely thrown into the metal handrails.

Captain Cheung Ming-wai, 34, said he was trying to avoid a floating navigation light on the port side of the vessel. When he observed the mooring pillar on the starboard side, it was already too late to avoid a crash.

The captain, with 10 years of experience, blamed the mooring pillar. "We need to rely on lights. But it has none. So my judgment was wrong," he told reporters. He was also slightly injured. It was his last trip before going off duty.

The Marine Department released a statement saying that the boat had deviated from its course and entered the mooring area inside the typhoon shelter.

Cheung has been temporality suspended from duty. The ferry company has yet to say whether human error was involved in the crash. It will also examine the ferry to see if a mechanical failure caused the accident.

The manager of the Maritime Services Training Institute, Tony Yeung P K, says he finds it hard to believe that the captain did not see the mooring pillar. Yeung said there were other light sources near the pillar.

He added he believed speed may have contributed to the crash.



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