21 dead, dozens missing as tourist boat sinks
PHUKET – Agence France-Presse
Thai rescuers pulled 21 bodies from waters off the coast of the holiday island of Phuket on July 6 after a tourist boat went down in heavy seas with dozens of Chinese passengers on board.
The dead were found drifting face down in the water, still wearing life jackets, several kilometers from where the Phoenix sank after being hit by five-meter high waves in a storm on July 5 evening.
In a grisly development, divers reported seeing “over 10 bodies” floating inside the hull of the submerged boat, according to Thai navy Rear Admiral Charoenphon Khumrasee.
The boat was carrying 105 passengers, mostly Chinese tourists, when it sank.
A total of 56 passengers were reported missing as of July 6 morning before the recovery effort began, with the Phoenix looking set to be one of the worst boat disasters in recent Thai history.
The boat sank 40 meters below the surface of the Andaman Sea, a few kilometers off the coast of Koh He, an islet known for its coral formations and popular with day-trippers from the tourist magnet of Phuket.
A stream of full body bags were brought to shore at Chalong pier in Phuket and taken to a nearby hospital for identification, according to the Public Health Ministry.
Helicopters continued to scan the water Friday afternoon in what appeared to be an increasingly forlorn hunt for survivors.
“I’m not really sure how many will survive,” a grim-faced Noraphat Plodthong, the governor of Phuket, told reporters.