A school attended by two teenage boys who drowned at Shek O while celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival was in "crisis mode" yesterday dealing with pupils' grief after the second boy's body was found.
The tragedy at the popular but often dangerous beach brought a warning from a lifeguard union that swimmers should take the dangers of the sea more seriously.
The body of Chan Yan-shi, 16, was found at about 7.30am, 50 metres from the beach.
He was one of three teenagers swept away by strong waves when they entered the water at 8.20am on Monday after partying all night, ignoring red flags warning that it was unsafe to swim.
The body of 15-year-old Choi Lai-heng, was found on Monday afternoon, while Tong Yim-kwan, a girl, was rescued.
The three were among six adolescents who had spent the night on the beach.
Cheng Tak-foo, principal of the teens' Chai Wan school, said the school management was in "crisis mode" after the tragedy. Teachers held an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon to set out contingency measures to contain pupils' emotions. Some lessons are likely to be suspended to allow time for counselling.
Cheng said the Education Bureau had sent a psychologist to the school to help.
"We have been monitoring social networking sites and will proactively contact students who could be emotionally unstable," Cheng said.
Some of the classmates of the two youngsters posted messages on social networking websites to mourn their passing. A video was also posted on a website where classmates narrated along with music calling for them to "come back".
Alex Kwok Siu-kit, general secretary of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Lifeguards' Union, said the public generally underestimated the danger of playing in the sea.
"Some of them just lack the sense that they should not go into the sea in adverse weather and when the warning is hoisted," he said.
At least five other people, one of whom was later sent to hospital, had to be rescued by lifeguards at Shek O on Monday.
The government said in June that on average 38 people drown every year.
But Kwok said the prevalence of people getting into difficulty in the water was underestimated because the government sometimes classified minor cases as persons requiring assistance.
He said this could lower awareness and affect government policy formulation about accidents in the water, estimating that these could amount to thousands each year.
According to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, about 200 people were rescued from various accidents in public swimming pools and beaches last year.