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September 23, 2017

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Seven held after 38 die in Hong Kong ferry crash

HONG KONG -- The captains of a ferry and a pleasure boat that collided in Hong Kong, killing 38 people in the city's worst maritime disaster in decades, were arrested Tuesday with five other crew, officials said.

More than 120 passengers and crew were on a Hong Kong Electric Company vessel to watch a huge National Day fireworks display in Victoria Harbour Monday evening when the collision occurred near Lamma island.

Scores of people were thrown into the choppy water from the company boat, which sank within minutes, leaving only its bow protruding from the waves.

The stricken ferry Sea Smooth limped to Lamma where its shaken but relatively unharmed passengers disembarked.

"There was not enough time to put on a lifejacket, no time to fasten it. We tried to hold onto something above but we had no luck and we slipped," one emotional woman from the Hong Kong Electric vessel told reporters.

Another survivor, clearly overwhelmed, said he had yet to hear any news of his children.

"My two children are missing and I don't know where they are," he said.

Survivors were taken by boat to Hong Kong Island, some 3 kilometers (2 miles) to the east, where a fleet of ambulances whisked them to hospital.

It was the deadliest maritime accident in the territory since 1971, when a Hong Kong-Macau ferry sank during a typhoon leaving 88 people dead.

Officials said the captain and three other personnel from the ferry had been arrested, along with the captain of the company vessel and two of its crew, for "endangering the safety of others at sea."

Six of the detainees were released on bail, and the ferry captain was to be released on bail later, they added.

Police chief Tsang Wai-hung said the suspects "did not exercise the care required of them by law to ensure the safety of the vessels they were operating and the people aboard."

Lamma resident Clare Kirkman, who was returning home from Hong Kong Island aboard the public ferry, described scenes of panic and confusion as the craft started to take on water.

"People at the front started screaming and saying there was water coming in, and the boat was tilting to the side," the 43-year-old Briton told AFP.

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