Police are now searching for the "snakehead" who smuggled the nine to Hong Kong from the mainland after he fled when the engine of the sampan carrying the nine broke down.

He made his escape with the help of another motorized sampan belonging to his gang.

The nine, including four male mainlanders, three Vietnamese men and two Vietnamese women aged between 20 and 47, were arrested for illegal immigration.

They were subsequently taken to Tai Lam Police Base in Tuen Mun before being transferred to Lantau North Police Station.

At 3.16am yesterday, police received a report that a sampan was drifting in the waters between Lung Kwu Tan and Sha Chau.

Police told the suspects to stay on the sampan before dispatching marine police to pick them.

The case is being followed up by the Marine West Division.

On September 22, a suspected failed attempt to enter the city illegally occurred. A 60-year-old mainlander was sent to Tuen Mun hospital in the incident, where he was certified dead the next day. His 54-year-old accomplice, Wang, was injured.

Wang was admitted to the same hospital before being arrested for illegal immigration and endangering the safety of others at sea.

At 10pm on September 22, a wooden boat carrying the two men collided with another speedboat in the waters off Lung Kwu Tan, police were told.

The impact threw the two into the sea. Wang then notified the police for help.

At 1am the next day, government helicopters scanned the west waters off Lung Kwu Tan while fire services vessels fanned out to search for more potential missing persons in the water.