Dozens missing after boat capsizes off Thailand's Phuket island

Sunday, 08 Jul, 2018

The island of Phuket - known for its beaches and luxurious resorts - is one of Thailand's most popular tourist destinations. Thailand is in the midst of its monsoon season, which begins in May and usually ends in October and often generates high winds and flash storms in coastal areas.

An initial report said all of the passengers were pulled from the sea alive but the official who spoke to AFP could not provide any further information.

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, who said they would try to retrieve them later Friday.

Thai authorities have resumed a search for 23 missing people following a tragic tourist boat sinking this week.

"But now the best thing to do for us, our job is to find the bodies and bring them back to the families", the Frenchman added.

Voralak Rerkchaikal, the owner of the dive boat Phoenix, said her company would cooperate with the ongoing efforts to look for the tourist. Gen. Teerapol Tipcharoen, commander of provincial police on the tourist island of Phuket. All of the dead were Chinese nationals.

A Thai navy boat carrying recovered bodies of passengers from a capsized tourist boat arrives at a pier in the tourist island of Phuket, Thailand, July 6, 2018.

"Be careful. nature is not a joke", Surachate wrote on Facebook.

An investigation has been ordered into why the boats went out, despite severe weather warnings. A representative of the operator of the boat, TC Blue Dream, declined comment when contacted.

Several other vessels hit trouble late Thursday.

Governor Noraphat said Phuket officials had issued a weather warning on Wednesday alerting the public about impending storms.

Ninety people were rescued from one boat carrying mostly Chinese tourists but seven were still unaccounted for, said Maj.

It is one of the worst boat disasters in the recent history of Thailand, a nation with a poor health and safety track record despite being heavily dependent on tourism.

"Urgent! The Chinese embassy is calling for 40 freezers", the Thai government said in an appeal, urging potential donors to contact the hospital.

Phuket is a magnet for overseas visitors including British sun-seekers and huge numbers of Chinese tourists who make up the bulk of the 35 million people expected to visit this year.

In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said China's top leaders, including President Xi Jinping, were paying close attention to the incident.