Five of 14 Missing in Phuket Sinking May be Alive

Survivors of the sinking rescued by a fishing vessel (facebook)

By The Maritime Executive 07-09-2018 10:55:58

Five out of the 14 passengers who went missing after a tourist boat sank off Ko He, Thailand last Thursday may be alive, according to Thai authorities. The governor of Phuket, Norrapat Plodthong, said that there were fewer passengers on the boat than previously believed.

The number of missing has been reduced by four, reflecting the downward revision in the number of individuals believed to be on board during the accident voyage. The whereabouts of the additional "survivors" is not known, and some may already have departed Thailand. 

The tourist boat Phoenix went down in rough weather off Phuket on Thursday afternoon with 89 tourists on board. 42 individuals have been confirmed dead, including 13 children. At least one body remains trapped in the wreck, which lies approximately 150 feet below he surface, and officials are considering an attempt to lift the hull to search for further remains. 

The overwhelming majority of the passengers on board (and those who perished) were Chinese nationals, and two Chinese rescue teams joined the search and recovery effort on Sunday. China's ambassador to Thailand also visited the families of the deceased at a hospital in Phuket to express his condolences, according to ECNS.

The Phoenix's master survived the sinking, and he faces charges roughly equivalent to involuntary manslaughter, with a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment. A second cruise boat capsized nearby on the same day, and while all of its passengers survived, its master faces charges as well. 

Chinese visitors are crucial to Thailand's tourism industry, and Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has made the government's response to the accident a top priority. He has formally apologized to the government of China for the accident, and he visited Phuket over the weekend to talk with the survivors and the families of the victims. Gen. Chan-o-cha used the occasion to call for better regulation of tourist boats. "Measures to prevent a similar disaster must be implemented immediately. Every boat must follow official warnings,” he said, according to Thai paper The Nation. "This entire process of marine safety must be reviewed."