When I went to Macau from Hong Kong a few days ago my friend made a joke about the ferry, saying she hoped we’d arrive safe at our destination. Of course, everyone in Hong Kong remembers the terrible Lamma Island accident that happened on 1 October 2012, in which 38 people lost their lives. A boat with 120 passengers on board was heading towards Victoria Harbour, where staff of the power company Hong Kong Electric, which also owned the ferry, were been taken to watch the celebrations for the mid-autumn festival and the National Day of the People’s Republic of China (note).
At around 20:30 local time the boat collided with another vessel near Lamma Island. The crash caused the death of 38 people, while around 100 were injured. This came as a shock for Hong Kongers. It was the worst accident of this kind in 40 years, and in a city that has a reputation for having a safe transport system and in which travel by ferry is a daily matter, a disaster with such a high death toll was unexpected, and for those who lost friends and relatives, it was a life-changing tragedy.
While I was sitting on the boat listening to my friend’s jokes I never thought for an instant that anything could happened to us. That is probably what everyone thinks: ‘it will never happen to me. It will take other 40 years before a similar accident happens again.’
And yet, yesterday at 9:30 pm there was another ferry collision. A ferry heading towards Cheung Chau on the Southeast coast of Lantau Island (see map below) was hit by a barge. It wasn’t as tragic as the Lamma Island crash, but 30 passengers were injured. Yesterday happened to be an extremely foggy day, with heavy rain and more than 90% humidity. As the South China Morning Post reported today, a passenger who was on the boat said that the fog was so thick that he didn’t even know in which harbour they were (South China Morning Post 06/04/2013, p. A).
It would perhaps be better to have stricter safety measures in case of prohibitive weather conditions and of limited visibility caused by the thick fog. Hong Kong heavily relies on ferry boat transport because of its geography: the territory includes over 200 islands, many of which are inhabited. However, there should be more awareness of the risks of travelling in adverse weather conditions. Yesterday’s storm and foggy weather should have cautioned the crew, in whose sense of responsibility the passengers trust.