Fire Consumes Wooden Cruise Ship on Halong Bay
[Brief] A wooden cruise ship in Halong Bay with 36 foreign tourists aboard caught fire and sank on Friday. Many passengers jumped over the side to escape the flames and smoke.
The vessel reportedly caught fire at 11 in the morning during its approach to port. It was returning from an overnight cruise around the bay.
Only minor injuries were reported. The vessel was only feet from shore, and a small launch rescued the tourists from the water shortly after the incident. Dozens of bystanders observed, and many recorded the fire.
The tourists reportedly included French, South Korean, Taiwanese and UK nationals.
A five-minute video shows the fire spreading rapidly from smoke near the stern to a full blaze throughout.
Photos of her stern identify the vessel as the Aphrodite. No information was immediately available on the cause of the blaze.
The incident rate of fires on cruise ships in the bay is reportedly high, and local media say that authorities intend to phase out wooden vessels in favor of steel ships by the end of the decade in order to improve safety. In addition, passenger vessels may soon be prohibited from making overnight trips, and will be restricted to day excursions only. Approximately 500 vessels operate in the area, 200 offering overnight tours.