At least one person is dead and two others are missing after an oil and chemical tanker caught fire off the coast of Lamma Island in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
Emergency personnel rescued 23 other sailors who had either fallen or jumped into the sea to escape the blaze. Four were taken to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai for medical treatment, including a 46-year-old Singaporean man suffering from shoulder wounds.
The vessel, oil and chemical tanker Aulac Fortune, was registered in Vietnam. It caught fire about one nautical mile south of Lamma Island soon after 11.30am, according to police. Sources reported hearing at least three explosions.
An initial investigation showed there were at least 25 crew members on board at the time of the incident.
"There was an explosion and some people fell into the water from the vessel," a police spokesman said.
The spokesman said that in addition to marine police vessels, three fireboats and a government helicopter were also deployed in the rescue operation, which was still continuing.
One of the sailors who was sent to hospital said the incident occurred while he was resting.
"I was sleeping, I don't know what happened," he said, adding that he felt OK and wanted to know details about his colleague.
Vietnamese consul Nguyen Van Phong arrived at Ruttonjee Hospital at 3.30pm to visit the injured.
At 3.42pm, fire services said the blaze was under control.
The Aulac Fortune had unloaded petrol it was carrying in Dongguan, Guangdong province on Sunday and arrived in Hong Kong at 5am on Tuesday.
Residents as far away as Discovery Bay and Mui Wo on Lantau Island reported hearing a loud boom and windows shaking.
"I thought it was an earthquake when the windows started to shake," Mui Wo resident Rhea Nee, 42, said.
"We usually have strong winds ... but when I looked outside, the trees were perfectly still."
Some shaken residents left their homes and gathered outside.
"I was waiting for the tremors and they didn't come," Nee said. "I ran out barefoot as I was folding my kids' clothes. I ended up outside holding a stack of clothes.
"The windows shook violently. Like when there is a [typhoon signal No 10]."
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.