Death toll rises after Thailand tourist boat sinks

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Thai divers have scoured the wreckage of a boat with Chinese tourists on board that sank in a storm off the resort island of Phuket, as the death toll rose to 33 with 23 others missing.

Nine bodies of Chinese tourists were being brought to Phuket, where authorities had already confirmed the death of another Chinese man.

Some of the bodies were found by divers who entered the wreck on 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 five-metre (16ft) high waves on Thursday evening.

Rescued tourists from a boat that sank are helped on to a pier on the island of Phuket
Rescued tourists are helped on to a pier on Phuket (Thailand Royal Police via AP)

The incident comes as rescuers, also led by Thai navy divers, struggle to extract 12 boys and their football coach from a flooded cave in the country’s far north, where they have been trapped since June 23.

Another boat also overturned off Phuket on Thursday. Officials said all 42 on board have been rescued.

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.

Thai media showed photos of rescued people in large rubber life rafts at sea, with fishing boats and churning water in the background.

The images also showed survivors being lifted from the rafts and sitting in life jackets amid ropes on the deck of what appears to be a fishing trawler.

Rescued tourists from a boat that sank are helped on to a pier from a fishing boat on the island of Phuket
A fishing boat helped with the rescue effort (Thailand Royal Police via AP)

“All agencies are co-operating in their search at this time,” Phuket governor Norraphat Plodthong said.

“We have given warnings … but the winds are strong.”

He said officials would consider whether to ban boats from going to sea during strong winds.

Thai PBS television reported late on Thursday that 12 boats with 263 passengers in all had been forced by the weather to stay docked at Racha island, a popular diving spot about an hour’s boat ride from Phuket.

They said they were providing food, shelter and water to the people, and if the weather did not clear, larger boats belonging to the navy would be sent to retrieve them.

Rescued tourists from a boat that sank rest on a pier on the island of Phuket
There have been several boat accidents lately (Thailand Royal Police via AP)

The Malaysian coast guard said on Friday that 25 people, including a woman, have been rescued.

Ten others, including four women, were found dead.

Rescue operations involving 150 personnel are ongoing for another nine people believed to be still missing.

Such tragedies are not uncommon in Malaysia.

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 home towns.

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