Lamma ferry crash

Emergency services performed heroically during ferry disaster

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 October, 2012, 1:39am

Whatever the outcome of the inquiry into the horrible Lamma ferry disaster, one thing is already clear, Hong Kong's emergency services responded outstandingly to that dire and completely unexpected emergency.

We may remember that this sinking occurred on a public holiday, when many emergency service personnel would have been off duty. Hundreds more were assigned to handle the vastly increased vehicular, pedestrian and seaborne traffic of people coming to watch the National Day fireworks.

Despite all these considerations of limited manpower availability, within a few short minutes of the collision of the two boats off Lamma, many emergency services staff were at the scene, scrambling to save the lives of those floating in the sea or trapped within the stricken vessel.

Some rescue workers risked their own lives attempting to break open an escape route for those trapped within the underwater section of the sinking boat. Many a desperate passenger was plucked to safety from the dark sea.

Within a very short time, more than 1,000 emergency staff were contributing to these co-operative and very strenuous efforts, drawn from the fire and ambulance service, the police and St John Ambulance Brigade. Such a rapid and effective deployment speaks volumes about the very high professional standards of Hong Kong's emergency services. I doubt that an equivalently swift and massive rescue operation could have been achieved anywhere else in Asia.

This was a ghastly disaster by any standards. But it would surely have been much worse, with much greater loss of life on what was otherwise a day of celebration, were it not for the sterling efforts of our emergency services. Hong Kong owes all who contributed to those efforts a great debt of gratitude.

The community must be proud of all that they did, in very difficult circumstances, to save those in peril on the sea.

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels