Fifty eight still missing from capsized boats off Phuket

Fifty eight still missing from capsized boats off Phuket

Fifty eight still missing from capsized boats off Phuket

Another 39 people were saved when a second boat, carrying mostly European passengers, overturned at about the same time.

Thai authorities are continuing to search for missing tourists who were on a boat that sank during a storm off the island of Phuket, as the death toll rose to 33 - all of them Chinese nationals.

The Phoenix was carrying 105 passengers, the majority Chinese tourists, when it hit trouble, sparking a rescue attempt that took place in the dark.

He said that two boats carrying a total of 146 passengers and crew 129 of whom were Chinese tourists sank on Thursday near the popular tourist destination 840 kilometres south of Bangkok.

Divers on Friday reported seeing "over 10 bodies" floating inside the hull of the boat, which is submerged 40 metres below the surface of the Andaman Sea.

The company will also help take the bodies of the killed to their hometowns for religious rites, she said.

Somsak Soprakarn of the Phuket police said "more marine officers have been deployed today". The boat, which went down about 7 km (5 miles) from shore, was properly registered and had not been overloaded, police said.

Initial reports from officials said all of the passengers on those boats were rescued.

Thai junta number two Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered an investigation into why it appeared to have ignored a weather warning, while police said they would seek to charge the captain and owner with negligence.

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"It's very hard 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", diver Philip Entremont told reporters before resuming the search Saturday.

Thailand is already in the global spotlight as a multinational effort to rescue 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach trapped for days in a northern mountain cave picks up pace.

The Phoenix - which had 105 people on board, mainly Chinese tourists - went down in stormy weather late on Thursday afternoon.

Last year 9.8 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand, with five million more arriving between January and May this year.

Chinese Ambassador Lyu Jian also had an "emergency conversation" by phone with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the Chinese Embassy said in a statement.

Thailand has poor road and boat safety records.

Phuket officials had earlier issued a warning of severe weather until next Tuesday, including heavy rain and winds.

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 hometowns.

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