French tourists escape as boat sinks in Vietnam

9th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

A group of French travellers had a lucky escape in Vietnam when their tour boat sank on Halong Bay, the party's leader said Monday, in an eerie echo of an accident earlier this year that killed 12.

There were no injuries in the latest incident, which involved 28 French tourists on Sunday afternoon at the popular visitor attraction, said Josette Farret, a 65-year-old who was among those on board.

"We felt that there were some technical problems before the departure of the boat, which was in poor condition," she said.

According to Dang Huy Hau, government vice-president in Quang Ninh province, the boat went down after a collision with another craft delivering water, but Farret insisted there was "absolutely no collision".

Hau said an investigation would be conducted after the boat is salvaged.

"Everybody aboard the tourist vessel was transferred to another boat before it completely sank," he said.

In Vietnam's worst tourism accident, 11 tourists and their guide died in February when a boat sank in Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its stunning limestone cliffs, about 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Hanoi.

A senior provincial official said water leakage resulting from human error was the most likely cause. The boat's captain and engineer were arrested for investigation over alleged safety violations.

The local travel agency that organised the February tour was unlicensed and the tour guide unregistered, officials said.

After the tragedy, a safety inspection of 135 tour boats found 98 with a variety of minor technical or safety problems, Hau said, adding that owners of the boats had been ordered to correct the problems immediately.

Jonathan Galaviz, a tourism sector economist at Galaviz & Co consultancy, said in February that the fatal sinking was an indication of a continued lack of attention to safeguards.

"Safety standards for tourism must be taken seriously by the Vietnamese government if the country wants to protect its long-term tourism image," he said.

"The public relations impact of incidents such as these are far and wide."

© 2011 AFP

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