27 injured in ferry crash

Twenty-seven people were injured - three seriously - when a high-speed catamaran collided with a vehicle ferry north of Lantau yesterday.

Last night a second catamaran operated by the same company was involved in a crash with a tugboat near Ma Wan. No one was injured and the passenger vessel docked at the China Hong Kong Ferry Terminal.

The first accident happened in mist at 9.10 am, an hour before the Marine Department warned of increasing dangers from the rising tide of vessels in Hong Kong and outlined measures to avoid catastrophe.

A woman's leg was severed below the knee and others were injured as passengers on the Zhuhai-bound catamaran Hai Yang were flung from their seats by the impact, which left a gaping hole in the vessel's side.

The captain of the Hai Yang, with 129 passengers and crew aboard, had sounded a horn three times before the collision with the Hongkong and Yaumati Ferry Company vehicle ferry Man Boon, which was returning to Tuen Mun after taking workers to the Chek Lap Kok airport site.

Businessman Siu Kin-kwok, 40, had been sitting next to trader Cherry Chan Lok-yee, 26, who lost part of her leg.

'We were all thrown several metres. Many people were crying, including men. It was very chaotic. We heard the sound of water coming in and we thought the ship was sinking,' he said.

The three most seriously injured people were air-lifted to Tuen Mun Hospital while the other passengers and crew clambered on to the Man Boon. A passenger on the Hai Yang, factory worker Kwan Chuk-hung, 65, said: 'The visibility was very low. When I saw the black car ferry, it was already very close to us and it rammed into our ship almost immediately.' The catamaran is owned by Zhuhai firm Jiuzhou Harbour Shipping Company; its local agent is Chu Kong Shipping, another of whose ferries was involved in a collision on its way to Zhuhai a week ago, injuring one man.

Last night's accident involved a third Chu Kong vessel, the Shun King, which hit a tugboat in Kap Shui Mun on its way from Shunde at 5.50 pm.