Isabelle Steger at the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time blog has a remarkable first-person account from a survivor of the Lamma Island Ferry Disaster in Hong Kong last month, the SAR’s worst maritime disaster in over 40 years.
Ms Cheng, 35, tells her story:
Nothing seemed particularly out of the ordinary, until suddenly we saw the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry, Sea Smooth, sailing very close to our boat. I remember thinking that it wasn’t going to hit us, although it was strange how close the boat was getting.
And just like that, the collision happened. We couldn’t react fast enough, everything happened so quickly. There was a loud crash, and everyone fell to the floor. The impact ripped a hole in my jeans. That’s how strong the collision was.
Then I was quickly pulled deep under water. I think the fact that the other ferry drove away so quickly created some sort of whirlpool that pulled people under very fast. There was also a rope circling my neck, and I was afraid it would strangle me. All I could do at that point was pray. It took me a long time to swim back to the surface, where there was a lot of floating debris. I kept feeling like something was blocking me from getting my head back above the water.
I grabbed a lifesaver next to me, and I noticed a baby, about a year old, floating. Nearby, a mother was crying out for the baby, but she was injured and had difficulty swimming. I gave the ring to the mother, and grabbed the baby. Finally, the three of us made it to the other Hongkong Electric boat with the help of some passengers on that boat. I kept shouting, “there’s a baby here, save the baby first!”
Ms Cheng was separated from her husband and two daughters when she went to get lifesavers from the ship’s storeroom, they were trapped inside their cabin as the ship went down:
By the time a diver came to rescue my family, my husband and our daughters were still clinging on to one of the last few intact seats, with about six feet left between the surface of the water and the tip of the boat. The diver smashed the window, at which point the seat finally gave way and snapped. They managed a successful escape.
Read the full account at China Real Time.