49 missing as boat overturns in seas off Thailand


PHUKET, Thailand (AP) — A boat carrying dozens of Chinese tourists overturned today 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 today. 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.

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