02/10/2012 09:48 BST | Updated 02/10/2012 10:28 BST

Hong Kong Ferries Crash Off Lamma Island, Killing Up To 37 People (PICTURES, VIDEO)

Two passenger ferries have collided off Hong Kong, killing at least 37 people and leaving around 100 passengers injured.

Six crew members were arrested on Tuesday morning for endangering people lives at sea after one of the city's worst maritime disasters in history.

As yet it's unclear what caused the crash.

One of the boats belonged to the HongKong Electric Company and was carrying 120 workers and their families to a fireworks display in Victoria Harbour, as part of celebrations for China’s National Day.

hong kong ferry

Hong Kong's busy shipping channels were even more crowded that usual, amidst celebrations for China's national day

The vessel hit another passenger ferry off Lamma Island, south west of Hong Kong, at around 8.20pm local time on Monday.

The HK Electric ferry quickly began to fill with water. Survivors had little time to put on their life jackets as the boat began to list and 28 people were declared dead at the scene, reported the BBC.

The other boat, which had around 100 people on board, managed to make it back to the port relatively undamaged. However a number of passengers were treated for minor injuries, reported Reuters.

hong kong ferry

Children are believed to be among those missing

A Hong Kong government statement said: "Over 100 people were sent to five hospitals during the incident; nine of them have sustained serious injuries or are in critical condition."

Dive teams, helicopters and boats were involved in the rescue operation which is still ongoing. The fire department said it could not rule out that some passengers were still trapped or missing.

Hong Kong is famed for its deep natural harbour and is surrounded by some of the busiest shipping routes in the world, but the city boasts an advanced infrastructure and well-regulated ports, making shipping collisions a rare occurrence.

Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung has promised an investigation into the accident.