PHUKET: A dive boat sank in the Similan islands with a ''frantic rescue'' required to save all on board, it was revealed today.
The dive boat Aladdin with 13 on board was not registered and operating near the park illegally, officials told Phuketwan.
On a second boat nearby, Swedish diver Dennis Karlsson, 46, took dramatic photographs showing the panic as the Aladdin quickly sank to the bottom about noon yesterday.
It was between Bon Island and Tachai island. Fortunately for the people on the Aladdin, the Phuket-based vessel Peter Pan was close by and able to rescue them all.
Scandinavians were among divers on both vessels, Mr Karlsson told Sweden's Aftonbladet newspaper where his photographs were published today.
The Aladdin sank in minutes, he said. ''It was just coincidence that our boat was there and could come to the rescue,'' Mr Karlsson said. ''It was really, really serious.''
The wooden hull of the boat was holed and the Aladdin tipped then sank, with people scrambling to get off.
''People threw themselves headlong into the water. Some disappeared under the surface. It was a very close thing for some of them and people were so grateful that the Peter Pan was there.''
It's believed the vessel Aladdin, based in Ranong, a Thai port on the border with Burma, was on a four-day live-aboard adventure.
According to park officials Phuketwan spoke to today, the Aladdin was not a registered vessel and should not have been operating.
Peter Pan operates out of Phuket. Andaman coast and Phuket authorities, with the help of the British Embassy, are attempting to lift marine safety standards.
Yesterday's sinking of the Aladdin is likely to trigger a closer investigation of illegal boats that are said to operate in the Similans region with corrupt payments made to renegade marine park rangers.
The Director of the Surin Island National Park, Kongkiert Temtamnan, confirmed today that the sinking happened between Bon Island and Tachai Island and not in the Surin park region.
The Director of the Similan islands national park, Nat Kongkasem, said today that both the islands were part of the national park but the Aladdin sank between the islands. in a location that was not part of the national park.
''The vessel operates out of Ranong,'' he said. ''It was not registered to operate in the national park and the hull was clearly of poor quality.''
VIDEO, photos in Sweden's Aftonbladet