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At least 36 dead after Hong Kong ferry sinks following collision

HONG KONG -- At least 36 people died and dozens were injured when a ferry carrying more than 120 revelers on a company outing collided with another ferry and sank near an island south of Hong Kong on Monday night, in one of the city's worst maritime accidents.

The ferry belonging to the Hongkong Electric Company, controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing, was taking staff and family members to watch fireworks in the city's Victoria Harbour to celebrate China's National Day and mid-autumn festival when it hit the other ship and began sinking near Lamma island.

Survivors said they had little time to put on life jackets before the ferry flooded, trapping passengers.

"Within 10 minutes, the ship had sunk. We had to wait at least 20 minutes before we were rescued," said one male survivor, wrapped in a blanket on the shore.

Some survivors said people had to break windows to swim to the surface. "We thought we were going to die. Everyone was trapped inside," said a middle-aged woman.

HongKong Electric, a unit of Power Assets Holdings which is controlled by Asia's richest man Li, said the boat had capacity to hold up to 200 people.

The tragedy was the worst to hit Hong Kong since 1996 when more than 40 people died in a fire in a commercial building.

The other ship, owned by Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Holdings, suffered a badly damaged bow in the collision but made it safely to the pier on Lamma, an island popular with tourists and expatriates about a half-hour boat ride from Hong Kong.

Several of its roughly 100 passengers and crew were taken to hospital with injuries.

"After the accident, it was all chaos and people were crying. Then water began seeping in and the vessel began to tilt to one side and people were all told to stand on the other side and everyone started putting on life jackets," a male passenger who was on the Lamma ferry told reporters.

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