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Tourists enjoy a meal on the Similans early today before being stranded

Phuket Storm Sinks Dive Boat as 'Hundreds' Are Stranded Offshore

Tuesday, April 16, 2013
UPDATE

THE Large patrol boat HTMS Pattani departed from Tablamu at 5.45pm for the Similans where it is expected to pick up about 400 tourists, stranded in an Andaman storm. Passengers mostly from Europe were rescued as the storm sank one dive boat. All the tourists are expected back at Tablamu pier north of Phuket between 1am and 3am.

Original Report

PHUKET: A large Royal Thai Navy vessel set off tonight towards an island in the Similans group north of Phuket to rescue ''hundreds'' of tourists from Phuket, stranded as a heavy storm struck.

One dive boat, the Jaoying (Little Princess) sank on the way to isolated Tachai island, where the large number of tourists face a night without food and water.

Two islands in the popular Similans have facilities for tourists but Tachai is one of the natural, undeveloped islands.

This afternoon's dramatic storm was forecast at 5am, with Phuket-based meteorologists advising small boats not to venture out today.

Just why so many small boat ''captains'' chose to risk the lives of their tourist passengers despite weather warnings is likely to be a question asked by marine authorities and envoys tomorrow.

The dive boat Jaoying was on its way from Bon island to seek shelter at Tachai island when the full fury of the storm caught it three miles offshore.

Fortunately other vessels in the vicinity were able to assist and rescue all passengers, a national marine parks ranger told Phuketwan tonight.

Most of the speedboats in the area carrying tourists sought to shelter off Tachai island.

Navy rescuers are expected to take three hours or more to reach the island in three-metre seas - as forecast by meteorologists this morning - and at least the same time to bring back the stranded tourists.

The vessel is likely to deposit the tourists at Tablamu, a pier where the Navy base is located in Phang Nga, the province north of Phuket. Most of the tourists are likely to have gone from Phuket on day trips.

Tourist speedboat sinkings occur occasionally off Phuket and they are almost always attributable to ''captains'' who go to sea without considering bad weather forecasts.

Calls by envoys to shift the decision-making from the ''captains'' to a more responsible harbormaster or some other authority have so far gone unheeded.

Phuket's last major sinking was in March 2009 when the new dive boat Dive Asia sank off Patong on a voyage back from the Similans with the loss of the lives of six tourists and the Thai cook.

Twenty-three survivors who abandoned ship in two liferafts eventually hailed a passing fisherman and used his mobile telephone to call in the rescuers.

Mobile telephone connections between Phuket and mainland Thailand and the tourists on Tachai were only working intermittently because of the weather tonight.

The forecast for Wednesday is the same as today: small boats are advised not to put to sea. Tourists should take note and adapt their plans accordingly.

Comments

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The greed is all consuming......

Posted by stu on April 16, 2013 18:17

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Did the same thing happen last year? With a severe warning why take the risk with people's lives? Sadly I can see it will take a major loss of life tourist revenue until enforcement. As Stu points out greed seems to be the likely factor.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on April 16, 2013 18:50

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Meanwhile at Bon Island, Rawai, the weather was perfect with just a small rain shower mid afternoon and we all got home without even getting wet! The East Coast of Phuket is much calmer than the West (Similan) side of the Island.

Posted by Dawn on April 16, 2013 19:40

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Twenty-three survivors who abandoned ship in two liferafts eventually hailed a passing fisherman and used his mobile telephone to call in the rescuers.
Do the fishing boats have V.H.F radios? if not it should be made law. Why i wonder did the harbour authorities not stop these pleasure boats putting to sea given the forecast.

Posted by mic.s on April 16, 2013 19:42

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Dawn, Phuket is notorious for micro storms. Even coming into Phuket by air one time the pilot said the weather was fine, then we could not land and a few mins later we could and this was an A320 a modern aircraft. As is typical in the tropics the problem is normally the wind moments before the rain starts, although I don't have the details of this accident. Having lived in a far more hostile natural sea environment The Coral Sea, Northern Great Barrier Reef if the proper care and enforcement (key) is taken then in most cases fatality is avoided. But then there always is a trade off, I do not think people expect to pay the same price in Thailand as Australia and therefore the government does not have so much money from taxation to enforce the law (except in some Arab states because of oil) Very sad but hopefully lessons will be learnt, sadly I think not at this stage.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on April 16, 2013 21:41

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Not smart and greedy captains and even less smart tourists. What a bad combination.

Posted by Jakub on April 17, 2013 01:15

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Jakub, I'm surprised Ed let you get away with your comment, re: to "less smart tourists." Tourist put their faith, and lives,(as they also do when they board a plane to come to Corruption Island) in the "expertise" of the tour companies and the crew, of the boats. Most tourists, because no one warns them, are unaware of the irresponsible acts of the companies and "captains."

Posted by Phuket_IOC on April 17, 2013 08:54


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