21 dead, dozens missing as tourist boat sinks in Thailand
PHUKET, Thailand (AP) — Divers scoured the wreckage Friday of a boat with Chinese tourists that sank in a storm off Thailand’s southern resort island of Phuket, as the death toll rose to 21 with about 35 others missing, officials said.
Nine bodies of Chinese tourists were being brought to Phuket, where authorities had already confirmed the death of another Chinese man. The nationalities of the others killed were not immediately known.
Some of the bodies were found by divers who entered the wreck Friday and others were floating in the water, said navy official Narong Aurabhakdi.
The boat was carrying 105 people, including 93 tourists, 11 crew and one tour guide when it toppled in 5-meter (16-foot) -high waves on Thursday evening. At least 12 of the injured were hospitalized.
Another boat also overturned off Phuket during the stormy conditions Thursday afternoon, but all 42 on board were rescued.
The accidents came as rescuers, also led by Thai navy divers, struggle to extract 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in the country’s far north, where they’ve been trapped since June 23.
Jin Yilin, consul-general of the Chinese Embassy in Thailand, said a delegation from the Chinese Foreign Ministry is on the way to Thailand.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of Thailand’s military government, expressed his “sympathies and deepest condolences” to the families of the dead.
The government will “exert all efforts to find those still missing and provide support to all survivors of this tragic event,” he said in a statement.
Images on Thursday showed rescued people in large rubber life rafts, with fishing boats and churning seas in the background. The survivors were shown being lifted from the rafts and sitting in life jackets amid ropes on the deck of what appears to be a fishing trawler.
As the seas calmed Friday, divers were transporting the bodies of the dead, including at least one child, from smaller boats to a larger ship taking part in the search effort.
Severe weather including heavy rain and winds were forecast until Tuesday. Phuket Gov. Norraphat Plodthong said officials would consider whether to ban boats from going to sea during strong winds.
Thursday’s storms had forced 12 boats with 263 passengers in all to stay docked at Racha island, a popular diving spot about an hour’s boat ride from Phuket.
The Thai incidents came after an overloaded boat carrying illegal Indonesian immigrants capsized in bad weather off Malaysia’s southern Johor state late Sunday, killing 10 and leaving nine missing.