(Updates with numbers missing, rescued. Adds colour, quotes)
HONG KONG, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Divers searched through the night for more than a dozen people missing after a ferry carrying more than 120 passengers sank south of Hong Kong after a collision with a tugboat late on Monday, a government spokeswoman said.
She said 101 people had been rescued so far off Lamma island, an area popular with tourists and expatriates.
Television pictures showed the red and blue bow of the ferry pointing skyward, surrounded by rescue vessels as government helicopters with search lights circled overhead.
The ferry, belonging to The Hongkong Electric Company, was carrying company staff and family members on an evening cruise to watch fireworks at Victoria Harbour.
"Our ferry left Lamma island at 8.15 pm to watch the fireworks display out at sea, but within a few minutes, a tugboat smashed into our vessel," a spokesman for the company told Hong Kong television.
Survivors were being taken to hospitals on Hong Kong island and Lamma island.
"Some of them are suffering hypothermia and four had to be resuscitated," a paramedic at the Queen Mary Hospital on Hong Kong island said.
"We will do all we can to find those who are still missing," Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying told reporters at a pier on Hong Kong island where many of the survivors were brought ashore.
The accident occurred over a long holiday weekend in Hong Kong, which is celebrating the mid-autumn festival and China's National Day on Oct. 1.
Thousands of Hong Kong residents live on outlying islands such as Lamma, which lies about 3 km (2 miles) off the southwest of Hong Kong island.
Hong Kong is one of the world's busiest shipping channels, although serious accidents are rare.
(Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn, Donny Kwok and Stefanie McIntyre; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Janet Lawrence)
Keywords: HONGKONG FERRY/COLLISION