Thailand: Rescue team searches for missing as death toll rises to 15 in pilgrim boat accident

"The death toll is now confirmed at 15, with 11 people still missing," said Ayutthaya deputy governor Rewat Prasong

By: AFP | Bangkok | Published:September 19, 2016 9:31 am
Thailand, Thailand pilgrim boat Sinks, Thiland Boat sinks, Muslim pilgrims die in Thailand, Thailand deaths, Thiland pilgrims dei, Latest news, International news, World news Thai rescue teams search for victims after a boat capsized at Chao Phraya River in Ayuthaya Province, Thailand.  At least 15 people were killed when a double-decker passenger boat carrying more than 100 people capsized in  Bangkok.  (Source: AP)

The search for several missing passengers continued on Monday after a boat carrying Muslim pilgrims sank on Thailand’s Chao Phraya river leaving at least 15 people dead, a provincial governor said.

The accident happened on Sunday near the ancient city of Ayutthaya, a popular tourist attraction, when a boat packed with pilgrims returning from a mosque hit a concrete bank in strong tides.

“The death toll is now confirmed at 15, with 11 people still missing,” Ayutthaya deputy governor Rewat Prasong told AFP, updating the overnight toll from 13 dead.

“Fourteen people are still in hospital,” he said, adding “the rescue operation resumed this morning to find those missing.”

No foreigners were believed to be among the dead.

Local television stations showed graphic footage of the aftermath of the accident as passengers were pulled from the water while rescuers attempted to resuscitate stricken people on the bank.

Passengers were trapped on the lower deck of the pleasure boat, which was submerged in the swollen, brown waters agonisingly close to the bank.

Despite its wealth compared to regional neighbours and huge tourism sector, accidents are common on Thailand’s public transport network.

Safety regulations are often weakly enforced, including on boats with overcrowding, sinkings and crashes common — in particular in busy tourist areas.

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The Chao Phraya, the main river that flows through Bangkok, is a key commuting artery, filled with often packed boats plying the waterways at breakneck speed.

It runs through Ayutthaya, the ancient Thai capital whose riverside is studded with the remains of Buddhist temples.

Thailand’s reputation as the “Land of Smiles” has suffered in recent years amid frequent deadly bus and boat accidents, crimes against foreigners and political unrest.

But visitors keep coming.

A record high of nearly 30 million travelled to the kingdom in 2015, a number boosted by a surge in mainland Chinese tourists, with some 33 million expected this year.

The junta government this week said they expected tourism to account for as much as 17 per cent of GDP this year.