Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 08:49
Rescuers scour sea for 11 missing in ship sinking
By Agence France-Presse In Hong Kong

Rescuers scour sea for 11 missing in ship sinking
Nanhai Rescue Bureau rescuers search for survivors in the water on Monday after the Marshall Islands-registered MOL Motivator (in background) collided with a Chinese cargo ship. (Nanhai Rescue Bureau)

An air and sea rescue mission scoured choppy waters near Hong Kong on Tuesday in a desperate search for 11 crew members 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 crew member 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 Xinhua News Agency.

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 told AFP.

The cause of the accident was not yet known and was under investigation, he said.

The 97-meter Zhong Xing 2, which was carrying cement from Hebei province 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 around four kilometers southwest 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 in 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-meter long cargo ship sank 80 kilometers southwest of Hong Kong in August, when a powerful typhoon generated towering waves.

The 21 crew members 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, a high-speed double-deck hydrofoil ferry traveling from Hong Kong to Macao collided with an “unidentified object”, injuring 87 people.