|Horrified tourists confirm sunken Thai ferry overloaded
Survivors of a Thai tourist ferry disaster recounted a fight for life belts after the overloaded boat carrying foreign tourists sank.
The tragedy, which left six dead including three foreigners, raised new questions about safety standards in Thailand, struggling to shake off a reputation for lax regulation.
“There were too many people on the boat. Fifteen minutes into the trip water came on board,'' said Natalia Serova, 27, from Russia, AFP reports.
“People were fighting to get life belts. There were only 30 or 40 on board. I jumped a minute before the boat sank. I turned around and saw it go under with people on board.''
Russian tourist Elena Bondarenko said survivors were caught in strong currents after the vessel went down.
“We survived by staying together. Some people couldn't swim. I'm just glad to survive. There were people on the boat when it went under.''
Three Thais, one person from Hong Kong and two other unidentified foreigners died, according to officials in the tourist resort of Pattaya, around 150 kilometers southeast of Bangkok.
The double-decker ferry sank on Sunday afternoon near Koh Larn, a small island popular with day-trippers from the beachside city, renowned for its racy nightlife.
“The boat went down in minutes. I saw people – some with life jackets, some without – in the water. One man was holding on to a gas cylinder. There was a body face down in the water. They were all panicking, shouting for help,'' said a local dive guide who was one of the first on the scene.
The captain fled the scene but was later detained and due to face charges of causing death by negligence, according to police.
Accidents involving boats, buses and other forms of public transport are common in Thailand, where safety standards are poor.