HONG KONG - The death toll from a ferry collision off Hong Kong rose to 39 on Friday, as the search for survivors was formally called off four days after the accident, the government said. The toll rose by one as all of the passengers and crew of the two boats involved in Monday night’s collision were accounted for, an official statement said. “Among the 124 passengers and three crew members on board ‘Lamma IV’, 39 passengers died and 87 sustained injuries,” it said, referring to the vessel that suffered the worst damage in the collision with a high-speed ferry.
“The Marine Department will continue to investigate the cause of the collision whilst the police are conducting criminal investigation.” The Lamma IV’s left rear was torn open in the impact, throwing scores of passengers into the sea. The vessel’s stern flooded within minutes, trapping passengers in the submerged cabin. The ferry, a catamaran called Sea Smooth, suffered severe damage to its left bow but managed to arrive safely at its destination on nearby Lamma island, a few kilometres (miles) southwest of Hong Kong. Flags flew at half mast and leaders observed three minutes of silence on Thursday as the Asian financial centre mourned the victims of its worst maritime accident in four decades. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying led senior officials in a memorial service at the harbourside government headquarters, while schools and other public institutions also fell silent. The mourning period ends on Saturday.