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Two dead, six missing in collision

Two men have died and six are missing after two commercial vessels collided Tuesday off the east coast of Hong Kong, the city’s marine department said, as it expanded an air and sea rescue operation.

At about 3:15 am, police received a report about a sand barge with 14 crew on board colliding with a container vessel with nine crew, a department spokesman told AFP.
Hong Kong’s fire services dispatched five rescue boats with about 100 crew to the scene in a bid to find the missing mainland Chinese seamen.

One seaman was discovered dead when his colleagues were plucked to safety, while another’s body was found Tuesday afternoon, the spokesman said. The capsized sand barge sunk below the choppy waters of the South China Sea, but the vessel had not touched the sea bed, a marine department spokesman told a press briefing Tuesday.

“The rescue divers are risking their lives,” he said. “They’re trying to get down to the sunken vessel, but the current is extremely strong and the ship is not completely grounded to the sea bed.”

The spokesman declined to say what might have caused the accident or comment on the likelihood of finding the missing seamen alive. “The weather was not good and visibility was poor at the time of the collision,” he said. “There were big waves, but it is normal for large ships to operate under those conditions.”

The search would continue for another day or two, the spokesman said. The dead and missing crew were all from the sand barge, with another six crew from the same vessel treated in hospital. The container vessel has been taken back to port with its nine crew rescued.