A swimmer has died during the Hong Kong Cross-Harbour open water race ©Facebook

"Deepest sympathies" have been conveyed by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) following the death of a competitor in the Hong Kong Cross Harbour open water race.

The 46-year-old man, whose surname has been identified in local reports as Ho, was pulled from the water by a rescue team 300 metres from the finish of the gruelling 1500m event.

He was later rushed to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital but proved unable to recover. 

A 59-year-old woman, with the reported surname of Cheung, was also taken to hospital after being taken from the water - and remains in intensive care.

Both were experienced amateur swimmers rather than professionals.

The incident marks the first fatality at the race since it was reinstated in 2011 following a 30-year break caused by pollution concerns.

It is not a FINA-organised event, although many of the world's best swimmers were competing in an event which followed a Hong Kong-leg of the FINA Open Water World Cup the previous day.

One swimmer died and another was left in a critical condition during the gruelling race ©Facebook
One swimmer died and another was left in a critical condition during the gruelling race ©Facebook

"FINA is very sad to hear of the unfortunate incident which led to the death of a swimmer during the Hong Kong Cross-Harbour open water race on Sunday," they said.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to the swimmer’s family.

"The Hong Kong Cross-Harbour open water race, which is not a FINA event, has been successfully organised for many years. 

"However, as a result of this unfortunate incident, working closely with the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association and other National Federations around the world organising the mass participation event, we will be conducting a thorough review of the incident and the overall safety and organisation of future outdoor mass participation events."

Around 3,000 swimmers were participating in the event, which sees swimmers race between two piers on opposite sides of Hong Kong's harbour.

Questions have also been raised about the number of lifeguards at the event.

"The organiser of the New World Harbour Race 2016, Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association, and the title sponsor, New World Development Company Limited, wish to express their deepest sorrow following today's tragic accident, when a Leisure Group swimmer in today's event got into difficulties," a statement added.

"The swimmer was rescued but attempts to resuscitate him failed and he subsequently passed away. HKASA and New World Development offer their sincere condolences to the bereaved family."

American Charles Peterson and Dutch Olympic champion Sharon van Rouwendaal took the respective male and female titles.