Eleven mainland crewmen are missing feared drowned after their cargo vessel sank following a collision with a container ship southwest of Po Toi Island, outside Hong Kong waters before dawn on Monday.
The only survivor was their 46-year-old colleague who was picked up by a passing fishing boat about 25 minutes after the collision which happened 3.7 kilometres southwest of Po Toi Island at about 2.30am.
Watch: Cargo ship sinks just outside Hong Kong waters, 11 missing
Suffering minor scratches to the arms and legs, the mainland man was ferried to Hong Kong before being taken to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai for treatment.
A government source said it was possible the mainland-registered vessel, Zhong Xing 2, sank with the 11 missing crew members trapped aboard, or unable to escape in time.
An air and sea search-and-rescue operation co-ordinated by the Guangdong Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre was launched, the Hong Kong Marine Department said. Mainland authorities also deployed a fixed-wing plane to search the area.
From Hong Kong, seven Marine Police launches, three fireboats, two diving vessels and a Government Flying Service helicopter were also involved in the search.
“An Oil slick was spotted together with debris and some floating rings at the scene but no sign of the missing crews or sunken vessel were found,” he said.
The 97-metre Zhong Xing 2 was carrying cement from Hebei province to the port of Haikou in Hainan province at the time the collision occurred, the Marine Department said. It had a crew of 12.
A Marine Department spokeswoman said the mainland-registered vessel collided with a 300-metre Marshall Islands-registered container ship, MOL Motivator, which was leaving for Yantian in Guangdong from Hong Kong.
“Zhong Xing 2 reportedly sank after the collision,” she said. “One of the crew was picked up by a fishing boat, while the other 11 are missing.”
At 4.30pm, the spokeswoman said the search was still continuing.
She said investigation into the cause of the collision was being carried out by mainland authorities as the incident happened outside Hong Kong waters.