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Sunday 26 January 2020

Heartbreaking scenes as death toll rises after Thai tourist boat sinks

The vessel sank off the tourist hotspot of Phuket.

Thai rescue divers and a police boat during a search mission (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Thai rescue divers and a police boat during a search mission (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

By Eileen Ng and Vincent Thian

Divers who entered the wreck of a tourist boat that sank in a storm off the Thai resort island of Phuket have described heartbreaking scenes of bodies of children found in the arms of their mothers.

The accounts came as the search continued for 15 mostly Chinese tourists missing in a disaster that has left dozens dead.

The death toll from Thursday’s tragedy has climbed to 41, in Thailand’s biggest tourist-related disaster in years.

Divers during the search operation (AP)

During a break in the search, diver Philip Entremont said: “It’s very difficult to see… it’s traumatic, it’s tragic, but the best thing to do, our job as divers, is to bring back the bodies to their families.”

The boat, with 105 people including 93 tourists on board, capsized and sank after it was hit by 16ft waves.

Prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of Thailand’s military government, expressed his “sympathies and deepest condolences” to the families of the dead.

Rescued tourists gather on a pier (AP)

He said the government will “exert all efforts to find those still missing and provide support to all survivors of this tragic event”.

Reports in Thai media said police have charged the owner and captain of the stricken ship with carelessness causing death and injury.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all-out search and rescue efforts, telling the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chinese diplomats in Thailand to take greater measures, and also urging Thai authorities to spare no efforts.

A helicopter and a Thai navy vessel search for missing passengers from the capsized tourist boat (Vincent Thian/AP)

Chinese ambassador Lyu Jian had an “emergency conversation” by phone with Thai deputy prime minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the Chinese Embassy said in a statement.

It quoted the envoy calling on Thailand to quickly mobilise an intensive search for the missing and “to tend and make appropriate arrangements for the rescued Chinese tourists, treat and cure the injured and receive family members of the Chinese tourists involved”.

PA Media

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