At least 21 dead as tourist boat sinks off Thailand



Governor Norrapat today said the body was found inside the wreckage of Phoenix and retrieved by divers.

The boat, which went down about 7 kilometers (5 miles) from shore, was properly registered and had not been overloaded, police said.

Thailand is bracing for the arrival of the monsoon season, which will bring heavy rain and storms to the area.

Thailand's government pledged Sunday to ensure justice for Chinese victims of a tour boat that sank in a storm off the southern resort island of Phuket, killing 42 people and leaving another 14 missing. Police previously said 90 people had been rescued from the boat and just seven were missing.

The Phoenix - which had 105 people on board, including 93 Chinese tourists and 12 Thai crew - went down in bad weather last Thursday evening, in one of Thailand's worst recent accidents.

The chief of the Phuket Provincial Disaster Prevention and Mitigation office said Friday afternoon that another 38 people were missing.

Several other vessels hit trouble late Thursday.

Officials have been ordered to start scouring the beaches at nearby islands and as far away as Koh Lanta and even Trang for bodies from the Phoenix boat disaster, which sunk off Koh Hei (Coral Island), south of Phuket, on Thursday. Phuket Gov. Norraphat Plodthong said officials would consider whether to ban boats from going to sea during strong winds. Almost a dozen Chinese divers were taking part in the search.

The bodies would "surface naturally" according to Rear Admiral Charoenphone Khumrasee.

"Helicopters will search for those who may have floated out".

For the injured tourists, the Thai government would cover all their medical expenses.

"One passenger died, 56 from the boat remain missing, while 48 have been rescued", he told the press in Phuket today.

A team of diplomats from the Chinese consulate and embassy in Thailand were rushed to Phuket overnight to visit people in hospitals and assist with the rescue response.

Yi Mao Ling, a 63-year-old tourist from China's Kunming city, said he was perplexed by the tragedy as he walked up to a boat with his children and grandchildren for an island trip.

Rescued tourists are helped onto a pier. She said the video showed that glass windows in the boat cabin were sealed but they should have had latches so that they can be opened to allow passengers to swim out in an emergency.

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.

More than 90 passengers were onboard when the boat began to keel over, prompting a rescue operation that stretched into the night and left authorities scrambling to react.

Some cried while others appeared dazed as they walked around still wearing their life vests.