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Hong Kong’s Jumbo floating restaurant sinks at sea


(CNN) — An iconic floating restaurant in Hong Kong has sunk, just days after being towed out to sea en route to an unspecified destination.

Jumbo Kingdom, a three-story vessel, whose exterior was modeled after a Chinese imperial palace, was towed away by tugboats last Tuesday after nearly half a century moored in the city’s southwest waters .

The restaurant’s main boat was heading to an undisclosed shipyard when it capsized on Saturday after encountering “adverse conditions” near the Paracel Islands (also known as the Xisha Islands) in the South China Sea, a report said. Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises Limited said in a statement on Monday.

The Jumbo Kingdom in Hong Kong, photographed in 2014.

Bruce Yan/South China Morning Post/Getty Images

The boat sank more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet), making salvage work “extremely difficult”, the statement said.

He added that Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises was “very saddened by this accident” and was working to gather further 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 vessel capsized, public broadcaster RTHK reported, amid calls for further investigation into the circumstances that led to the sinking.

News of the sinking was met with dismay online, with many Hong Kong social media users lamenting the inelegant end of one of Hong Kong’s most recognized historical icons.

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

The Hong Kong Third Side political party called the incident baffling and accused the government and those involved in running the restaurant of indirectly causing the capsizing of “the collective memory of the people of Hong Kong”, reported RTHK.

Others have seen the sinking ship as a dark, comedic metaphor for Hong Kong’s supposed fortunes, as the city – still largely isolated from the rest of the world – clings to pandemic restrictions after years of political unrest. .

The 260-foot-long (about 80 meters) restaurant was the main boat for Jumbo Kingdom, a restaurant with a capacity of more than 2,000 people that included an older, smaller restaurant boat, a barge for the tanks of seafood, a kitchen boat and eight small ferries. to transport visitors from nearby docks.

Jumbo Kingdom, which was once the largest floating restaurant in the world, has starred in many Hong Kong and international films, including “Enter the Dragon” with Bruce Lee, and “James Bond: The Man with the Golden Gun”.

It has also hosted visiting personalities such as Queen Elizabeth II, Jimmy Carter and Tom Cruise.

The restaurant, which was only accessible by small Jumbo-branded ferries, was famous for its sumptuous imperial-style facade, its many neon lights, its specially commissioned massive paintings in the stairwell and its colorful Chinese-style designs – including a golden throne in the dining room.

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

“If we look at the historical context, it was built at a time when this imperial-style Chinese aesthetic was not even encouraged in China (“Old things” had to be removed during the Cultural Revolution). So Jumbo Kingdom reflected the way the Chinese people in Hong Kong then had a greater desire or passion for these ancient Chinese traditions,” Lai said.

“It (also) reflects Hong Kong’s close relationship and history with the sea.”

But as the island’s southern port fishing population dwindled, the restaurant group became less popular and had suffered a deficit since 2013.

The pandemic dealt the final blow, with Jumbo’s owners announcing in March 2020 that they had racked up losses of more than $13 million and the restaurant would be closed until further notice.

Several proposals had been put forward to save the historic icon, but its high maintenance cost had deterred potential investors, with Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam also ruling out a possible government bailout to save the attraction.

Without a “white knight” lifeguard the city was waiting for, the owner decided to move the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, the main boat, to an undisclosed shipyard before its operating license expires at the end of June.

Tai Pak, the smaller and older boat dating from 1952, as well as a recently capsized kitchen boat, remain moored in the harbour.

Maggie Hiufu Wong contributed reporting.



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