Fifty one injured in ferry collision in China

Songhua River. Credit: Martina Li

A passenger ferry collided with a moored sand barge along Songhua River in China on 20 July, resulting in 51 people being sent to hospitals for treatment.

The ferry, Tian He No 2, operated by Harbin Transportation Group Ferry Tourism Company, was carrying 98 passengers who were on the return leg after visiting the Harbin Flood Memorial Tower in Daoli district in Harbin in Heilongjiang province. The ferry was heading towards the Binzhou Railway Bridge when it collided with a 2,000 dwt sand barge.

The impact caused a gaping hole in the portside of the ferry. Harbin Maritime Affairs Bureau said that 120 rescuers from the public security, health, and transport agencies rushed to the scene.

Nine people had to stay in the local hospital for observation, while three others were treated for fractures. Local media reported that 51 people were sent to Harbin Emergency Medical Center, Harbin Fourth Hospital, the First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, Harbin No 1 Hospital, and Harbin Children’s Hospital, with many treated as outpatients.

Passengers who were interviewed by the local media said that after the collision, it was chaotic in the ferry, as many people screamed and cried. There were also children on board the vessel.

Harbin Fourth Hospital Head Yan Hongwei said that all doctors and the head nurse were mobilised to report for work as the situation was deemed as an emergency.

Harbin Maritime Affairs Bureau said that the sand barge has been stabilised and has been docked upstream of the river, while the cause of the collision is being investigated. There were no crew members on the barge at the time of the accident. Tian He No 2 has been sent to a local shipyard for repairs.

There have been ferry accidents along the Songhua River, a popular tourist spot due to its scenic views in the area that used to be known as Manchuria during the imperial era.

On 18 August 1985, about 300 people drowned when an overloaded ferry capsized on the Songhua River. Almost 25 years later on 20 August 2010, a 12-seat passenger boat capsized after it lost power due to engine failure, resulting in four people drowning.