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The Phuket-Krabi tourist ferry blazes after passengers jumped for their lives

Tourist Ferry Destroyed in Blaze at Sea

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
PHUKET: A 12-year-old European child is missing after fire destroyed a large ferry off Krabi this afternoon with another 117 people on board reported to have escaped safely.

The girl was in the toilet when the blaze erupted and quickly burned the boat to the waterline.

The Ao Nang Princess 5 was about 10 kilometres off the coast of Ao Nang in Krabi province when the blaze broke out.

Fishing trawlers and speedboats saw the smoke and responded, plucking scores of tourists from the water.

Chief Inspector Lieutenant Panya Deatsupa of the Marine Police in Krabi said the ferry made regular trips from Phuket to Krabi and back again.

''The fire broke out about 3.30pm as the vessel was returning to Phuket. The boat later sank about 6pm.''

A search was continuing for the 12-year-old. Authorities are hoping she has been carried to safety but her rescuers are unaware she has been reported missing.

''We hope she is still alive,'' said the Director of Marine Office 5 for the region, Wichai Kamwong. ''The ferry burned with remarkable speed so to have the speedboats and fishing trawlers close by to help was wonderful.''

With the boat now at the bottom of the ocean, plans were also being made to dive to the wreckage.

The girl's parents told the rescuers that the girl had gone to the toilet on the ferry just before the blaze erupted.

The Governor of Krabi, Songpol Sawattham, went to Ao Nang, a popular hopping off point for Phi Phi, Phuket, Koh Lanta and other islands, as passengers from the sunken vessel milled on the shore.

Officials were trying to arrange for buses to transfer the rescued passengers back to accommodation in Phuket this evening.

Are You a Ferry Passenger?

WERE you on board the ferry that sank today? We'd like to report precisely what happened. Please telephone 089 6472731 to tell us your story.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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What a tragedy. I hope they find the girl safe. Accidents happen but in this area they seem frighteningly too often.

Posted by Alan on April 8, 2015 18:33

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"Director of Marine Office 5 for the region, Wichai Kamwong. ''
Is not Khun Phuriphat THEERAKULPISUT?

Posted by Whistle-Blower on April 8, 2015 19:00

Editor Comment:

Khun Phuripat runs Phuket Marine Office 5. He has a boss, Khun Wichai, director of the region.

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I wonder what Khun Wichai thinks about the performance of his staff. Quarterly Performance Review with Khun Phuripat would be fascianating to see :-)

So, this quarter, German man sliced by long tail, two deaths on jetskis and a ferry boat fire. Well done, lad, keep it up!

Posted by Discover Thainesa on April 8, 2015 20:57

Editor Comment:

The ferry boat fire took place in Krabi waters, not Phuket waters, DT. Nothing to do with Khun Phuripat.

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" Nothing to do with Khun Phuripat"

Really ?

Since Phuket was a regular port of call for this vessel, it is just as much the responsibility of K. Phuripat as it is his counterpart in Krabi.

How does the position where the boat sank relate to who is responsible for checking safety standard adherence ?

Accident investigation is quite different from accident prevention.

Posted by Herbert on April 9, 2015 07:04

Editor Comment:

These are questions that have previously been asked and the answer is: if it happens in Krabi waters, it's Krabi's problem. Perhaps you haven't heard this before, Herbert.

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Ed, my comment was clearly lighthearted and was not specific to just the tragic incident on the ferry yesterday

Like most readers, I do feel that Marine 5 could do a huge amount more for water safety in phuket, there have been so many incidents reported in your pages over the years that suggest performance could be dramatically improved.

Posted by Discover Thainess on April 9, 2015 08:09

Editor Comment:

The positive is that the ferries all carry life vests. This is because of constant checking by Marine Office 5. Coincidentally, Khun Phuripat just hours before the tragedy was telling a collection of tour guides and speedboat crews at a seminar in Phuket City about the need for improved safety. The jet-skis are the one large, unattended problem in terms of insurance, scams and potential deaths and injuries. Everything else is imperfect but improved. A 12-year-old girl died yesterday so we find it impossible to treat this issue lightheartedly.

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My sis and bro-in-law were traveling recently Krabi Ao Nang PP Phuket. I told them stay on deck or near the doors, but not inside the passenger concourse. I wasn't joking but I think they thought I was ......

Posted by geoff on April 9, 2015 11:12

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Ed, there is tragic news somewhere in the world every day - and yesterday was no exception. People still need to maintain a sense of reality and humour or we would all end up with depression.

I do think it's amazing that out of 100+ people and the severity of the fire that only one life was lost which is very positive news.

Marine safety in Thailand still has a long way to go !

Posted by Discover Thainess on April 9, 2015 12:07

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" These are questions that have previously been asked and the answer is: if it happens in Krabi waters, it's Krabi's problem "

That is not an acceptable answer. People die because of this attitude.

Considering the frequency of marine related accidents and deaths, these questions, if anything, need to be asked at elevated frequency and in a more assertive way.

The fire has been reported having spread very quickly. One has to wonder if the engine room had a proper fire proof door that was closed, as it's supposed to during a voyage.

If the Marine Office 5 in Phuket is not responsible for verifying boats entering and departing Phuket adhere to proper safety standards, then who is ?

Common excuse in Thailand is that it was an accident and accidents are not preventable. Just bad luck.

Tourism safety does not seem to be a priority anywhere else except in press releases.

Posted by Herbert on April 9, 2015 12:39

Editor Comment:

Nobody is suggesting it's an acceptable answer but it is the official response. People here contain their responsibilities carefully. You answers are, as usual, designed for a prosperous first-world democracy rather than a developing country with limited resources. I am not defending the attitude, just stating the obvious. Inject the money and you will get the result you want.

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It's likely the girl died, but not a proven fact, Ed.

Posted by agogohome on April 9, 2015 12:48

Editor Comment:

There is a body and we believe it belongs, sadly, to the young girl. Hardly a fitting issue for anyone to raise except perhaps a first-class jerk with a screw or two loose. As usual, you simply fail to keep up.

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Ed, agree with your response to @Herbert - only this is that there IS plenty of money here in Phuket, it's just held by a small minority of extremely wealthy people and not spent on public safety etc

Much like America, really!

Posted by Discover Thainesa on April 9, 2015 15:24

Editor Comment:

You don't seem to get my point.
Which money counts for more, DT? The money of the tourists or the money of the people who depend on tourism?

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" Inject the money and you will get the result you want "

By official reports Phuket generates about 30% of total tourism revenue for Thailand. That figure is estimated to be about 1.85 Trillion baht in 2014.

I would like to argue that tourists, especially those on Phuket, have injected more than enough money to rightfully expect safety standards generally applied at major tourist destinations around the world.

Furthermore Tourist Safety and adherence to international standards have been headlining media releases in the past couple of years.

Considering we once again lost a life that could have been prevented, I strongly feel this is a point of paramount importance to be made, loud and clear.

Posted by Herbert on April 9, 2015 15:58

Editor Comment:

Individuals should make safety a priority in choosing what they do and who they do it with. That applies everywhere. But you will have speedboat captains who decide it's safe to travel, once you've paid your money, regardless of the approaching storm. Top-down talk doesn't fix the problems.

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The reports say that the ferry company will help and contact the victims, one of my guests was on the ferry and they get no help or support from the ferry company, the britisch embassy or even from thai authorithies.
A shame on all these people who had to solve there problems without credit cards,money,valuables! Shame to all of them, showing off by checking the boats a few days later and leaving helpless people a shore!

Posted by Eric on April 11, 2015 18:48

Editor Comment:

There are certainly discrepancies between what's being said and what's being done. We hope to investigate and report on the lack of insurance coverage very soon.

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My parents were on this boat. They were lucky to escape unharmed but this tragic event will stay with them forever. They lost everything except the clothes on their back and received little help from anyone except the hotel they were eventually taken too, who helped us get money to them and arrange taxi's for them. It was actually the hotel maid who got them some t-shirts to wear- I think this says a lot! Some serious questions need to be answered and better procedures but in place to help victims. I have been appalled by the lack of help and support given to my parents.

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2015 20:17

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Some serious questions need to be answered and better procedures but in place to help victims.

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Of course there is no established procedures/protocols , this all hapoens ad hoc.
MO5 and local authorities - in cooperation with TAT , may establish it, but why bother ...

Such assistance probably exceeds legal limits of liability of the boat owner/operator, but we are talking here not about nitty legal things, but good service.

Of course, victims have a legal right to file claims with a court etc., but what happens in the first hours in terms of actual steps to cover immediate needs legal stuff doesn't address.

Posted by Sue on April 11, 2015 22:21

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They may not have been legally bound to provide a service to the victims but they certainly had a responsibility to do so. What happened to compassion and humanity.

Posted by Anonymous on April 12, 2015 14:14

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Somebody remarked that boats don't just explode. In this case the boat did explode. My thoughts are did this boat have a large black water tank under the toilet? If yes, methane gas could have caused the boat to explode. Methane, you don't smell it but it's there.
Can easily ignite. Can readily form an explosive mixture with air at room temperature. Methane gas can be ignited by static electricity too.
R I P Shani Maril.

Posted by Robin on April 14, 2015 20:17

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Robin,
The boat didn't explode, it burnt and spread quickly. If it exploded, some people would have wounds from flying debris. There may have been a 'bang' that occurred with initial ignition caused by rapid expansion within an enclosed space and even more later as other combustibles caught fire.
As for methane build up being the cause, it's highly unlikely that off gassing through decomposition would occur in such quantities and with the right air fuel mixture for the fire to continue after the initial ignition which would have consumed all available gas.
Methane build up in any storage tank would displace the air above the fluid level, which to burn requires a concentration of between approx. 4-16%. Any concentration outside this range and the gas will not ignite.
It is also unlikely that an initial methane burn, if at all possible, would generate enough heat in the surrounding materials causing them to flash or ignite.
More than likely a fire existed somewhere in the bilges and was retarded by lack of air or oxygen. Something then occurred, whether that be someone smelt smoke and opened an access hatch or similar, which provided the required air flow for the fire to expand.
Whatever fuel source was the cause, it's temperature would continue to increase under a retarded condition and could have either reached flash point or ignited with the increased air supply.

Posted by Manowar on April 15, 2015 05:10


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