The death toll from the boat accident off the southern Thai resort island of Phuket has risen to 41, Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong said Saturday, as the search continues for 15 people who are still missing.
Rescuers in Thailand re-launched the search Saturday for the missing tourists, most of them Chinese, following the sinking of their tour boat in a storm.
Divers described heartbreaking scenes from the wreck of bodies of children found in the arms of their mothers.
"It's very difficult to see," diver Philip Entremont said Saturday before resuming the search, "but the best thing to do . . . is to bring back the bodies to their families."
The boat was carrying 105 people, including 93 tourists, 11 crew and one tour guide when it capsized after being hit by five-meter waves Thursday off Thailand's southern coast. At least 12 people have been hospitalized.
Boat captain Phoenix Somjing Boontham said debris got into the drainage engine after the first wave pounded the boat and that the system "was not fast enough to keep the boat steady. Then more waves hit rapidly, the boat leaned to one side and then it capsized," the captain added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chinese diplomats in Thailand to increase search and rescue efforts.
The Chinese embassy said in a statement that Chinese Ambassador Lyu Jian had an "emergency conversation" by phone with Thailand's deputy prime minister. Lyu called on minister Somkid Jatusripitak to "make appropriate arrangements for the rescued Chinese tourists" and to "treat and cure the injured."
Governor Norraphat asked the Phuket Tourist Association to find 80 volunteer Chinese language translators to help the rescued Chinese passengers at the provincial airport.
A second boat capsized off Phuket earlier Thursday. Officials said all 42 people on board - Chinese and European tourists - were rescued.
Severe weather in the area is expected until Tuesday and Governor Plodthong said Phuket officials have alerted the public about the storms.
Phuket is a popular attraction for foreign tourists. Thirty-five million tourists are expected to visit Thailand this year.
Source: Voice of America