An air and sea rescue mission scoured choppy waters near Hong Kong on Tuesday in a desperate search for 11 crew still missing more than 24 hours after their Chinese cargo ship sank.
The Zhong Xing 2, which was laden with cement, went down after colliding with a container ship in the early hours of Monday just south of the island of Po Toi, on the edge of Hong Kong’s maritime territory.
A 46-year-old mainland Chinese crewman is so far the sole survivor of the ship’s crew of 12 - he was plucked from the sea by a passing fishing boat.
Chinese authorities are coordinating the rescue operation, sending 15 ships and three helicopters to hunt for the missing crew, according to China’s official state news agency Xinhua.
Watch: Cargo ship sinks just outside Hong Kong waters, 11 missing
Hong Kong also deployed a helicopter and eight rescue boats, but rescue efforts have so far been in vain.
“We are still trying to find the wreckage and the missing 11 persons,” a Hong Kong government spokesman said.
The cause of the accident is not yet known and is under investigation, he said.
The 97-metre Zhong Xing 2, which was carrying cement from the Chinese province of Hebei to the southern island of Hainan, collided with the Marshall Islands-registered MOL Motivator container ship - more than three times its size.
The cargo ship sank two nautical miles (around four kilometres) south-west of Po Toi.
Fears over the safety of Hong Kong’s waterways were sparked after a ferry crash in October 2012 that killed 39 - the city’s worst maritime disaster for more than 40 years.
The collision between a high-speed ferry and a pleasure boat shocked the Asian financial hub, which prides itself on its good safety record.
Waters around the territory are notoriously crowded with hundreds of vessels - from tiny wooden fishing boats to gigantic container ships - plying the routes to and from one of the world’s busiest ports.
In other major incidents, a 190-metre long cargo ship sank 80 kilometres south-west of Hong Kong in August last year, when a powerful typhoon generated towering waves.
The 21-member crew of the bulk carrier Trans Summer were forced to abandon ship as the vessel tipped on its side and sank, triggering a rescue by two helicopter teams and a passing ship.
In November of the same year, a high-speed double-deck hydrofoil ferry travelling from Hong Kong to Macau collided with an “unidentified object”, injuring 87 people.