HONG KONG - Eighty five people were injured Friday, three of them seriously, when a high-speed ferry travelling from Hong Kong to Macau hit an unidentified object in the water, authorities said.
The nighttime crash, which took place on a popular tourist route, comes at a time of heightened public concern over the safety of maritime transport in Hong Kong's harbour, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
Last month the city marked the one-year anniversary of a ferry collision which claimed 39 lives, Hong Kong's worst maritime disaster for over 40 years.
In the latest incident, the double-deck hydrofoil "Madeira" carrying 105 passengers and 10 crew "collided with an unidentifiable object" around 1:15am (1720 GMT) near one of Hong Kong's small outlying islands, boat operator TurboJet said.
Passengers described being hurled out of their seats by the force of the collision.
"There was suddenly a loud bang. The ferry was thrown upwards. Then many passengers were thrown out from their seats," one passenger identified as Mr Wong was quoted as saying by Hong Kong's Apple Daily.
Multiple passengers were stretchered into ambulances by emergency services staff, some wrapped in neck braces and breathing through oxygen masks. The walking wounded limped away in bandages after treatment at the scene.
One passenger told Hong Kong television that the crash felt like a heavy collision.
"Big, very big, I could hear the sound 'Bang'," he said.
Three fireboats were scrambled to search the scene but failed to find any object in the water, fire officials said.
Of those hospitalised, three were still being treated for serious injuries.
"As of 6am this morning we know 85 people were injured, three of whom are in a serious condition," a Hong Kong government spokeswoman told AFP.
She added that 25 men and 21 women were now in a stable or satisfactory condition and that health officials were still in the process of compiling the condition of the other 36 people injured in the crash.