Hong Kong mourns victims of Lamma Island boat collision

Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung (fifth from left) with officials mourning the boat crash victims, 4 October 2012
Image caption Mr Leung (fifth from left) declared three days of mourning for the boat crash victims

Hong Kong has observed three minutes' silence to mourn the 38 victims of Monday's fatal collision between two boats, as investigations continue.

The Chinese and Hong Kong flags flew at half-mast, with Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung leading the tribute.

The collision off Lamma Island was the worst maritime accident in Hong Kong for over 40 years.

Seven crew members from the two boats were arrested after the accident and have now been released on bail.

Mr Leung led government officials in a memorial service, with schools and other public offices also observing a moment of silence.

He has declared three days of mourning, which began on Thursday, and expressed his sympathy for the victims' families.

'Six months'

The collision on Monday night involved a pleasure boat, the Lamma IV, and a ferry operated by the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry (HKKF) company.

Five children were among the dead and one UK national is known to have died.

More than 90 people were hospitalised after the accident. By Wednesday, 71 people had been discharged and one was in critical condition, hospital authorities said.

A complete picture of the accident, which reportedly occurred in clear conditions, may not emerge any time soon, investigators said.

Image caption Investigations into the accident could take six months, authorities said

"The investigation is expected to take around six months," a marine department spokeswoman told reporters.

Those arrested include the captains of the two vessels.

Investigators are examining the wreck of the Lamma IV, which has been towed to a beach, revealing a huge hole in its rear.

The accident occurred during a busy period for passenger travel, at the end of a long holiday weekend to mark the mid-autumn festival that this year coincided with China's National Day on 1 October.

The Lamma IV was carrying employees of Hong Kong Electric and their families to watch a firework display. It partially sank within minutes of the collision.

The ferry was able to reach Lamma safely despite taking on water.

The crash is Hong Kong's worst maritime accident since 1971, when a ferry sank during a typhoon, leaving 88 people dead.

1. Hong Kong Electric boat departs power plant for firework display in Victoria Harbour

2. Ferry departs Hong Kong island on regular route to Lamma Island

3. Collision occurs north of Lamma Island. Damaged ferry continues to port at Yung Shue Wan. Lamma IV sinks.

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