July 7, 2018 / 11:58 PM / 8 days ago

Thai rescuers prepare to raise sunken tourist boat, 41 confirmed dead

BANGKOK/PHUKET, Thailand, July 8 (Reuters) - Rescuers in Thailand prepared to lift a sunken tourist boat on Sunday and said 15 people are still missing after the craft capsized off the coast of Phuket island, killing at least 41 people.

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

Police on Saturday said they have charged the ship’s captain with negligence leading to damages, injury and death.

The captain, who was police did not name, has denied the charges.

“The captain of the boat has been charged with negligence causing damages and loss of life,” Police Lieutenant General Sorasak Yenprem, provincial police commissioner, said on Saturday.

A note circulated by rescue workers invited reporters to join an effort on Sunday to raise the sunken Phoenix.

Forty-one of those on board have been confirmed dead and another 49 rescued, officials said, leaving 15 unaccounted for.

Divers have been searching inside the submerged vessel for any survivors. Helicopters have also joined the search.

Friends and relatives of those injured and deceased have arrived in Phuket to identify their loved ones.

Visibly distraught relatives were seen being escorted through one hospital on the island’s east coast to a waiting room.

The Phoenix overturned in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Ko He, which is a popular one-day trip from Phuket.

The islet is known for its powdery beach and coral reefs.

Two other boats, including a yacht, also capsized in the same area on Thursday, but their passengers were brought safely to shore, officials said.

Some Thais have questioned why the boat was even at sea during bad weather.

In an urgent circular on Saturday, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism said tourism departments across China should carry out security checks against hidden risks to ensure travel safety during the summer period.

It also stressed the importance of researching online travel companies when booking overseas trips.

Many of the tourists involved in the Phuket accident booked their trips independently via online tourism platforms, the ministry said.

Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Chayut Setboonsarng in Bangkok and Philip Wen in Phuket; writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, editing by Gary Crosse

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