One person has been killed and 23 rescued after a 17,000-ton oil and chemical tanker caught fire off Lamma Island on Tuesday.

Photo: Apple Daily.

Four people were injured and one was found dead at the scene, a police spokesperson told HKFP. The injured were sent to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wanchai and the Intensive Care Unit of Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam. Two people remain missing.

At 11.29am, a no.3 alarm fire broke out at Lamma Southwest Anchorage. On a scale of one to five, five is the most serious.

Firefighters tackled the blaze using four jets and it was largely put out at around 4.30pm. The marine police and Government Flying Service also responded.

The Aulac Fortune. Photo: Apple Daily.

Like an ‘earthquake’

Photos showed fires aboard the vessel, as it billowed with smoke as nearby residents shared reports of loud explosions.

Photo: HK Police.

“The patio doors shook like they did in the big typhoon, but when I looked outside, [there] was no wind,” Lamma resident Deb Lindsay told HKFP.  “They then rattled again while I was watching, and again, no wind. I thought it was an earthquake… It must have been a huge explosion to get shockwaves hitting me in Po Wah Yuen.”

“We heard a loud bang that made all our windows and doors shake, it sounded like someone was banging loudly on our glass door,” Mui Wo resident Natasha Ramsey told HKFP. “We ran outside and then there were sounds like thunder.”

Photo: Apple Daily.

“Oh gosh! I felt it. My front door banged. The noise shook me right through,” a netizen wrote on a Lamma Island residents’ Facebook group.

Environmental impact

Gary Stokes, an environmentalist at OceansAsia.org, told HKFP that it was too early to say how any spillage could affect sealife or nearby islands “but anything getting into the ocean will not bode well. The channel to the south of Lamma is home to Finless porpoise and a migration route for turtles and even whale sharks amongst others.”

The Aulac Fortune’s position, according to vesselfinder.com.

The Vietnam-registered vessel was built in 2010 and arrived from Dongguan at 3:01am on Monday, according to the Marine Department.

Named the Aulac Fortune, she is 144 metres long and 22.6 metres wide and is anchored at the South Lamma Dangerous Goods Anchorage.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.