Dozens missing after boat capsizes off Thailand's Phuket island

Leroy Wright
July 6, 2018

A search will continue today for 58 people, majority tourists, who are still missing after three accidents in strong seas off Phuket involving two jet skis, a dive boat and a yacht on Thursday (July 5) afternoon, according a message posted on Facebook page "Phuket Public Relations" on Friday morning.

"I have not yet received any reports of people floating in the sea", he said, adding a flicker of hope was that the boat went down so fast an air pocket may have been created.

The accidents came as rescuers, also led by Thai navy divers, support 12 boys and their soccer coach stranded almost two weeks inside a flooded cave in the country's far north, and try to determine how and when to extract them.

The Pheonix boat was pummelled by huge waves as high winds whipped up the sea off the popular island of Phuket.

There are some Chinese tourists on board, the consulate-general said, and they are mostly one-day individual visitors or staff and their families of a Chinese company.

According to Phuket governor Noraphat Plodthong, a Chinese tourist is confirmed dead from the incident which occurred at 5.45 pm.

Another two boats, including a yacht carrying 39 people, also capsized but its passengers have been brought to safety.

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Initial reports from officials said all of the passengers on those boats were rescued. One fisherman is still missing after being swept from a Thai fishing boat Thursday near Krabi province.

Phuket draws hordes of overseas visitors including Western sun-seekers and huge numbers of Chinese tourists who make up almost a third of the 35 million people expected to visit Thailand this year.

Severe weather is forecast in the area until next Tuesday.

Another boat that was sailing in the same area had also capsized but all 35 tourists, five crew and a guide on board were rescued, the Water Safety Department of the Harbour Department said. "We have given warnings. but the winds are strong".

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.

Thai divers scoured the wreckage of a boat with Chinese tourists that sank in a storm on Thursday.

Road and boat accidents involving tourists are common in Thailand, where safety standards are sometimes well below global norms.

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