HONG KONG (Reuters) - At least eight people died and more than a dozen are missing after a ferry packed with more than 120 passengers collided with a tugboat and sank south of Hong Kong on Monday night.
More than 100 have been lifted so far from waters off Lamma, an island south of Hong Kong popular with tourists and expatriates, but it was not immediately clear how many were dead, a government spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for the Hospital Authority said: "Eight are dead so far, we do not have their identities and it is not clear how many are adults or children."
The ferry, belonging to The Hongkong Electric Company, was carrying company staff and family members on an evening cruise to watch fireworks at Victoria Harbour. It sank quickly.
"Our ferry left Lamma island at 8.15 pm to watch the fireworks display out at sea, but within a few minutes, a tugboat smashed into our vessel ... which then left without stopping," Yuen Sui-see, operations director for the company, told reporters.
Television pictures showed the red and blue bow of the ferry pointing skywards, surrounded by rescue vessels as government helicopters with search lights circled overhead.
Survivors were being taken to hospitals on Hong Kong island and Lamma island. "Some of them are suffering hypothermia and four had to be resuscitated," a paramedic at the Queen Mary Hospital on Hong Kong island said.
"We will do all we can to find those who are still missing," Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying told reporters at a pier on Hong Kong island where many of the survivors were brought ashore.
The accident occurred over a long holiday weekend in Hong Kong, which is celebrating the mid-autumn festival and China's National Day on October 1.
Thousands of Hong Kong residents live on outlying islands such as Lamma, which lies about 3 km (2 miles) off the southwest of Hong Kong island.
Hong Kong is one of the world's busiest shipping channels, although serious accidents are rare.
(Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn, Donny Kwok, Stefanie McIntyre and James Pomfret; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Robert Woodward)