Six foreigners, including a German, missing after Thai tourist boat sinks

10th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

The vessel, carrying 30 people including 19 foreigners on a scuba diving trip, was returning to the southern island of Phuket from the Similan island group when it sank.

Bangkok -- Thailand's navy was on Monday searching for six foreign tourists and one Thai missing at sea after a boat sank in a storm near the southern resort isle of Phuket, a police official said.

The vessel carrying 30 people including 19 foreigners on a scuba diving trip was returning to the southern island of Phuket from the Similan island group, but was reported missing at about 11:00 pm (1600 GMT) Sunday.

Lieutenant Colonel Panya Chaichana of the Phuket police said 23 passengers and crew had been rescued but two Swiss nationals, two Austrians, one Japanese national, one German and a Thai crew member were missing.

"We suspect the boat sank in the deep water outside Patong beach (on Phuket) due to heavy storms," he told AFP. "We are still searching for the other passengers who are still missing."

Three Thai tourist agency staff, seven Thai crew members, two Japanese nationals, seven Germans, three Swiss nationals and one Australian were rescued after the 60-foot (18-metre) vessel went down.

"The survivors were found on two rubber rafts and said that their boat sank because of a sudden heavy storm ... we will continue searching until the night, using police boats and a Navy helicopter," Panya said. "The chance for survival is more than 50 percent because we are using the helicopter and we can search further than using just the boat."

Phuket, Thailand's biggest island, is one of the kingdom's top tourist draws, with holidaymakers attracted by its white-sand beaches, plush resorts and spas and clear blue seas popular with divers and watersports enthusiasts.

Ferries shuttle hundreds of tourists every day between Phuket and the paradise islands in the Andaman Sea a short hop away, where abundant marine life attracts scuba divers from around the world.

In September 2007, an Israeli tourist died and another was injured when a boat carrying 59 people capsized near Phi Phi, also along the Andaman coast.

Phuket has also had its share of tragedy.

The island was badly hit by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that killed 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean, including 5,400 in Thailand.

Then in September 2007, 90 people were killed when a low coast airliner crashed in bad weather on the runway at Phuket airport.

AFP/Expatica

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