(CNN) – Hong Kong’s iconic floating restaurant sank just days after being towed into the sea on its way to an unspecified destination.
The restaurant’s main boat was traveling to an undiscovered shipyard when it capsized on Saturday after encountering “adverse conditions” near the Paracel Islands (also known as the Sisha Islands) in the South China Sea, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises Limited said in a statement. Monday.
The Kingdom of Jumbo in Hong Kong, pictured in 2014
Bruce Yang / South China Morning Post / Getty Images
The boat sank more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet), making rescue work “extremely difficult,” the statement said.
It added that Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises was “very saddened by this incident” and was working to gather more details from the towing company. No crew members were injured.
On Tuesday, the Hong Kong government asked the owners for a report on how the ship capsized, RTHK television reported, amid calls for a more in-depth investigation into the circumstances that led to the sinking.
The news of the sinking was met with horror online, with many social media users in Hong Kong complaining about the inelegant end of one of Hong Kong’s most acclaimed historical icons.
Some published art depicting the underwater restaurant, while others shared farewell messages or fond memories of past visits.
The Hong Kong political party Third Side described the incident as confusing and accused the government and restaurant officials of indirectly overturning the “collective memory of the people of Hong Kong”, RTHK reported.
Others saw the sinking ship as a grim comic metaphor for Hong Kong’s supposed wealth, as the city – still largely closed to the rest of the world – adheres to the pandemic’s limits after years of political turmoil.
The 260-foot (about 80 meters) restaurant was the main boat of Jumbo Kingdom, a restaurant with more than 2,000 people, which included an older and smaller restaurant boat, a barge for seafood tanks, a kitchen boat and eight small ferries to transport visitors from nearby piers.
It has also hosted guest luminaries, including Queen Elizabeth II, Jimmy Carter and Tom Cruise.
The restaurant, accessible only by small Jumbo ferries, was known for its lavish Imperial-style façade, plenty of neon lights, massive custom-made staircase paintings and colorful Chinese-style motifs – including a golden throne in the dining hall.
“If we look at the historical context, it was built at a time when this imperial-style Chinese aesthetic was not even promoted in China (the ‘Old Things’ must be removed during the Cultural Revolution). So Jumbo Kingdom reflects how the Chinese in Hong Kong back then had a greater longing or passion for these old Chinese traditions, ”Lai said.
“It (also) reflects Hong Kong’s close ties and history with the sea.
But as the fishing population in the island’s southern port has dwindled, the restaurant group has become less popular and has been in short supply since 2013.
The pandemic struck a final blow, with Jumbo owners announcing in March 2020 that they had accumulated losses of more than $ 13 million and the restaurant would be closed until further notice.
Several proposals have been made to save the historic icon, but its high maintenance costs have deterred potential investors, with Hong Kong CEO Kari Lam also rejecting potential government aid to save the attraction.
With no savior of the “white knight” waiting for the city, the owner decided to move Jumbo Floating Restaurant, the main boat, to an undiscovered shipyard before his license to operate expired in late June.
The Tai Pak, a smaller and older boat dating back to 1952, as well as a recently capsized kitchen boat, remain moored in the harbor.
Maggie Hiufu Wong contributed to the report.