Thailand: Phuket boat sinking death toll continues to rise

Image      Phuket in southern Thailand is a hot-spot for tourists

Image Phuket in southern Thailand is a hot-spot for tourists

The three-decker tourist vessel, the Phoenix, was carrying 105 passengers when it keeled over and sank near the holiday island of Phuket during a storm on Thursday afternoon.

BANGKOK-At least 33 people drowned and another 23 are missing after a tourist boat packed with passengers capsized in rough seas in southern Thailand, police said Friday.

In the message, Phuket governor Norapat Plodthong made a conclusion out of reports from authorities involving in the search and rescue operations that one person was killed, 11 injured (2 seriously), and 58 missing.

With limited space at Vachira Hospital, a staging area is being set up on the helipad behind Phuket Provincial Police Station in Phuket Town.

"There was a lot of debris, shoes, glass, and even personal belongings, so we had to navigate through all that", he said.

"I grabbed onto a railing and pulled myself overboard", he said, adding he feared women and children were among those who were trapped on the bottom deck as the boat went down.

An investigation has been ordered into why the boats went out, despite severe weather warnings.

A search operation, suspended late Friday, was expected to resume at the weekend.

Thailand is in the middle of its rainy season, which usually runs from May to October and often generates high winds and flash storms in coastal areas, especially on its west coast, on the Indian Ocean, where Phuket is located.

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The death toll jumped after the navy sent divers to enter the wreck of the tour boat, which capsized and sank on Thursday when it was hit by five-meter-high waves.

Chinese Ambassador Lyu Jian also had an "emergency conversation" by phone with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the Chinese Embassy said in a statement.

Thailand is already in the global spotlight for a dramatic rescue mission in the north of the country, after 12 boys and their football coach were trapped in a cave complex.

The Thai incident 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.

Thailand has poor road and boat safety records.

Chinese tourists make up the biggest number of foreign visitors to Thailand.

Images on Thursday showed rescued people in large rubber life rafts, with fishing boats and churning seas in the background.

Many Indonesians are willing to risk their lives by travelling on boats believed to be old and unsafe to work in Malaysia illegally, or to return to their hometowns.

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