HK pair rescued from liner that hit iceberg

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 November, 2007, 12:00am

Three Chinese tourists, two of them from Hong Kong, were among 100 passengers and 54 crew members evacuated from a Canadian cruise ship that sank after striking an iceberg off Antarctica, the adventure tour's operator confirmed yesterday.

The Chinese embassy in Chile said it would offer full assistance to the three to help them return to Hong Kong and mainland China.

'All passengers and crew, including the captain, are completely safe, uninjured and in good spirits,' said the shipowner, Gap Adventures.

The Explorer struck the iceberg near the South Shetland Islands on Friday. The crew and passengers spent several hours in freezing temperatures aboard lifeboats and inflatable rafts before they were picked up by the Nordnorge, a Norwegian cruise ship.

They spent the night on Chilean and Uruguayan military bases on King George Island in Antarctica. Military officials hoped the weather would allow them to be airlifted to Chile today.

Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council, said agencies organised tours to Antarctica for high-end travellers. 'More people can afford these tours, which can cost HK$80,000 to HK$100,000,' he said.

Whelan Leung Wai-leung, founder of outdoor speciality retailer Protrek, said interest in Antarctica had grown with concerns over global warming.

Mr Leung said expeditions could never be fully predictable due to weather conditions.

'November is the beginning of the expedition season and there can be icebergs in the channels,' he said. 'Normally, the cruise should be diverted by computer navigation to avoid a strike.'