HONG KONG, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong's Executive Council (ExCo) has approved in principle the setting up of a commission of inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance to investigate the facts and circumstances leading to and surrounding the collision of two vessels that took place near Lamma Island on Oct. 1, the city's chief secretary Carrie Lam said here on Tuesday.
Briefing the media, Lam said the commission will ascertain the causes of the incident and make appropriate findings, and consider and evaluate the general conditions of maritime safety concerning passenger vessels in Hong Kong, and the adequacy of the present control system.
The commission will also make recommendations on measures required to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents in the future, Lam said.
Lam said the law enforcement agencies' investigation will continue, and the commission may ask for information or reports to facilitate hearings. It may also summon people to testify.
"The commission of inquiry, which is independent, with these broad terms of reference, is in fact more relevant and appropriate in this tragic incident than maritime court," she said.
Lam said the ExCo may appoint one or more people as commission members, but generally such commissions have few members, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government is actively identifying highly credible people to the commission.
Once the people have been identified, the ExCo will formally appoint the setting up of this commission of inquiry, Lam said.
The commission is expected to report to the chief executive within six months from the date of appointment, and it may also submit interim reports.
The ferry crash on Oct. 1 claimed 39 lives from 32 families. Lam said staff from the Social Welfare Department are providing counseling and assistance in burial arrangements, and the government will provide assistance through the Community Care Fund as some families may encounter financial difficulties.