Hong Kong’s jumbo floating restaurant submerged in the sea

(CNN) – An iconic Hong Kong floating restaurant has sunk just days after it was taken to sea on its way to an unspecified destination.

Jumbo KingdomA three-story ship, the exterior of which was styled after a Chinese imperial palace, was towed by tugboats last Tuesday after nearly half a century in the city’s southwest waters.

Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises Ltd. said in a statement on Monday that the restaurant’s main boat was traveling to an undisclosed shipyard when it hit an “adverse surface” near the Paracel Islands (also known as Jisha Island) in the South China Sea on Saturday. It reversed after fulfilling the conditions”.

Pictured at Jumbo Kingdom in Hong Kong, 2014.

Bruce Yan/South China Morning Post/Getty Images

The statement said the boat sank more than 1,000 meters (3,280 ft), making rescue operations “extremely difficult”.

It said Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises was “deeply saddened by this accident” and was working to gather more details from the towing company. No crew member was injured.

On Tuesday, the Hong Kong government asked the owners for a report on how the ship capsized, public broadcaster RTHK reported, for a more thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to the sinking.

News of the sinking was met with outrage online, with many Hong Kong social media users mourning the elegant end of one of Hong Kong’s most recognized historical symbols.

Some posted art depicting the restaurant underwater, while others shared farewell messages or fond memories of visits from the past.

Hong Kong’s political party Third Side called the incident shocking and accused the government and those involved in the restaurant’s management of indirectly destroying the “collective memory of the Hong Kong people”.

Others saw the sinking ship as a darkly comical metaphor for Hong Kong’s perceived fate, as the city – still largely closed from the rest of the world – linked to pandemic restrictions after years of political turmoil. Is.

The 260-foot-long (about 80 m) restaurant was the main boat of the Jumbo Kingdom, a 2,000-person capacity eatery that included a larger and smaller sister restaurant boat, a barge for seafood tanks, a kitchen boat and eight smaller ferries. To take the visitors from the nearby ghats.

Jumbo Kingdom, once the largest floating restaurant in the world, Starred in several Hong Kong and international films, including “Enter the Dragon” starring Bruce Lee and “James Bond: The Man with the Golden Gun”.

It also hosted guest celebrities including Queen Elizabeth II, Jimmy Carter and Tom Cruise.

The restaurant, which was only accessible via small jumbo-branded ferries, is noted for its grand imperial-style façade, plentiful neon lighting, massive specially commissioned paintings in the staircase, and its colorful Chinese-style motifs was – which also included a golden throne. dining room.

“A restaurant on a temporary structure on this scale is quite unique in the world,” said Charles Lai, an architect and founder Hong Kong Architectural History During an interview with CNN earlier this month.

“If we look at the historical context, it was built at a time when the Chinese aesthetic of this imperial style was not even encouraged in China (“the old stuff” had to be removed during the Cultural Revolution). Hence the Jumbo Kingdom. reflected how the Chinese in Hong Kong then had a greater yearning 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 dwindled, the restaurant group became less popular, and had been facing losses since 2013.

The pandemic struck the final blow, with the owners of Jumbo announcing in March 2020 that they had lost more than $13 million and that the restaurant would be closed until further notice.

Several proposals were put forward to save the historic icon, but its high maintenance cost deterred potential investors, with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam also dismissing a possible government bailout to save the attraction. .

Without a “white knight” rescuer that the city was waiting for, the owner decided to move the main boat, Jumbo Floating Restaurant, to an undisclosed shipyard before his operating license expired in late June.

The Tai Pak, a smaller and older 1952 boat, as well as a more recently overturned kitchen boat, are docked in the harbour.

Maggie Hifu Wong contributed reporting.