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Deadly Collision at Sea Near Hong Kong

A collision at sea near Hong Kong between a passenger vessel and a ferry killed at least 38. The Monday night crash was Hong Kong’s deadliest accident in more than 15 years, and the worst maritime accident in more than 40.

The ferry involved, the SEA SMOOTH, has a top speed of almost 45 kph (28 mph) and carries up to 200 passengers. At 8:23 p.m., it collided with the LAMMA IV, which was taking more than 100 employees of Power Assets Holdings Ltd. and their families to famed Victoria Harbor to watch a fireworks display in celebration of China’s National Day and mid-autumn festival.

The government said in a statement that 101 people were sent to hospitals; 66 were discharged, and four had serious injuries or were in critical condition.

The ferry was damaged but completed its journey, and some of its passengers were treated for injuries.

The government said 28 bodies were recovered overnight, and eight more victims were declared dead at hospitals. Two bodies found aboard the vessel Tuesday raised the death toll to 38, according to government statements. At least four of those killed were children.

Salvage crews raised the half-submerged LAMMA IV using three crane barges that surrounded it Tuesday.

At the same time, several dozen relatives of victims traveled by boat to take part in a traditional Chinese mourning ritual, praying alongside Taoist priests and tossing spirit money into the wind.

Though there was no immediate word about how the collision occurred on Hong Kong’s tightly regulated waterways, it appeared human error was involved. Both vessels should have been illuminated by running lights when they crashed near Lamma island off the southwestern coast of Hong Kong island. Crewmembers from both boats were detained and seven have been arrested on suspicion of endangering passengers by operating the craft unsafely.

Such large-scale accidents are rare for Hong Kong, a semiautonomous enclave off mainland China that has one of Asia’s most advanced infrastructures and economies with first-rate public services. The accident is the deadliest to strike the territory since a 1996 high-rise fire that killed 41, and the deadliest ferry accident since 88 people died during a typhoon in 1971.

Victor Li, deputy head of the company that owns Power Assets, was reported by Hong Kong media saying the firm would provide emergency payments of 200,000 Hong Kong dollars ($25,793) to the family of each person killed.

Li’s father, Li Ka-shing, is Asia’s richest man. Power Assets Holdings Ltd., one of several companies in the elder Li’s sprawling business empire, owns the Hong Kong Electric Co., one of the city’s two electrical utilities.

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