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Hong Kong cross-harbour swim death turns safety spotlight on all future events, says world aquatics governing body

Hong Kong’s cross-harbour swim is under review along with future open water events globally after the death of a swimmer at the weekend, the world aquatics governing body said.

A 46-year-old man died when he was rushed to hospital after being pulled unconscious from the water by a rescue boat near the finish line at Quarry Bay Park on eastern Hong Kong Island at about 9.30am during the annual event on Sunday, which attracts world-class international competitors and recreational swimmers.

The International Swimming Federation (Fina) is now working closely with race organisers, the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association, and other groups responsible for similar events around the world.

“Fina is very sad to hear of the unfortunate incident,” the governing body said.

Watch: 2016 cross-harbour swim

“We will be conducting a thorough review of the incident and the overall safety and organisation of future outdoor mass participation events.”

The 1.5km race saw around 3,000 people swim from Lei Yue Mun fishing village in Kowloon to Sai Wan Ho on the other side of Victoria Harbour, which was 500 up from the previous year.

One dead, one hospitalised after Hong Kong cross-harbour swim race

Some have questioned why only 10 extra lifeguards, taking the total to a reported 120, had been added when the field had expanded so much.

A 59-year-old woman was also pulled out of the water unconscious and is in hospital in intensive care, a race spokesman said.

Both harbour race victims were taking part in the leisure category, which is for slower swimmers.

The Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association and the title sponsor, New World Development, have expressed their “deepest sorrow” over what they called a tragic accident.

Hong Kong cross-harbour swim tragedy prompts plan for new safety measures

The death was the first casualty since the race resumed in 2011 after a three-decade hiatus due to concerns about water pollution.

During Sunday’s event, lifeguard canoes were stationed along the race course at 30m intervals, each patrolling a section of the water to cover the entire route.