PHUKET, Thailand (AP) — A boat carrying dozens of Chinese tourists overturned Thursday in rough seas off southern Thailand and 49 passengers were unaccounted for, an official said.
Strong winds were still blowing as searchers looked for the missing people off the tourist island of Phuket in the Andaman Sea.
Phuket Gov. Norraphat Plodthong said 48 passengers were rescued from the boat, with 49 unaccounted for.
Police previously said 90 people had been rescued from the boat and just seven were missing. The reason for the discrepancy was not clear.
Another boat also overturned off Phuket on Thursday. Officials said the 39 Chinese and European tourists who were forced to abandon that boat were rescued and have returned to land.
Thai media showed photos of rescued people in large rubber life rafts at sea, with fishing boats and churning water in the background. The images also showed survivors being lifted from the rafts and sitting in life jackets amid ropes on the deck of what appears to be a fishing trawler.
Phuket officials had earlier issued a warning of severe weather until Tuesday, including heavy rain and winds.
“All agencies are co-operating in their search at this time,” Norraphat said. “We have given warnings … but the winds are strong.”
He said officials would consider whether to ban boats from going to sea during strong winds.
A late report from the Thai PBS television station said the body of a man wearing a life jacket from the larger vessel had been recovered.
Authorities described him as Chinese and 35-40 years of age. They said they don’t know the nationalities of the other missing people, but those who had been rescued were mostly Chinese on group tours.
The station also reported that 12 boats with 263 passengers in all had been forced by the weather to stay docked at Racha island, a popular diving spot about an hour’s boat ride from Phuket.
They said they were providing food, shelter and water to the people, and if the weather did not clear, larger boats belonging to the navy would be sent to retrieve them.