Divers yesterday pulled at least two bodies from the bowels of a submerged river boat after the overcrowded vessel carrying Muslim pilgrims sank on Thailand’s Chao Phraya River, leaving 18 people dead.
The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon near the ancient city of Ayutthaya, a popular tourist attraction, when a boat packed with pilgrims returning from a mosque hit a concrete bank in strong currents.
Scores of people yesterday lined the bank as divers plunged into the swollen, brown waters for the grim task of searching the partially submerged pleasure boat for the missing.
Distraught relatives wept as the body of an eight-year-old boy was pulled from the wreckage and laid in a white plastic sheet. The boy was later followed by the corpse of a woman who had been found downstream and was brought to shore on the back of a jet ski.
Rescuers used a whiteboard to keep track of those still missing, including six children.
Ayutthaya provincial Deputy Governor Rewat Prasong later said the confirmed death toll stood at 18, with 12 missing and 14 hospitalized. The dead were not thought to include any foreigners.
The boat’s captain is in custody and faces a negligence charge after allowing the double-decked vessel to become overcrowded, police told reporters.
“The boat has permission to carry about 50 people, but it was carrying more than 100 people,” Ayutthaya Police Chief Sudhi Puengpikul said.
Disaster struck as the boat returned from a memorial for a Muslim academic at an Ayutthaya mosque.
TV footage showed the boat stopping abruptly as it appeared to hit the concrete bank, and sinking in seconds.
Thai broadcasters showed desperate scenes of the aftermath of the incident as passengers were pulled from the water while rescuers attempted to resuscitate stricken people.
Many of the dead were trapped on the lower deck of the boat, which ran into trouble agonizingly close to safety.
Officials said the vessel’s proximity to the bank might have prevented the toll from being even higher.
Despite its wealth compared with regional neighbors and a huge tourism sector, accidents are common on Thailand’s public transport network. Safety regulations are often weakly enforced, including on boats, with overcrowding, sinkings and crashes common — particularly in busy tourist areas.
According to the WHO, Thailand has the world’s second-highest road fatality rate after Libya.
The Thai junta has gotten tough on breaches of many laws, but has so far failed to fix the chronic safety lapses in the country’s transport system.
Chao Phraya, the main river that flows through Bangkok, is a key commuting artery, filled with often packed boats plying the waterways at breakneck speeds.
It runs through Ayutthaya, the ancient Thai capital whose riverside is studded with the remains of Buddhist temples.
Thailand’s reputation as the “Land of Smiles” has suffered in recent years amid accidents, crimes against foreigners and political unrest.
However, people continue to travel to the country. A record high of nearly 30 million traveled to the kingdom last year, a number boosted by a surge in Chinese tourists, with about 33 million expected this year.
The junta government this week said they expected tourism to account for as much as 17 percent of GDP this year.
Dignitaries from 47 countries yesterday congratulated President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on the commencement of her second term and highlighted Taiwan’s achievements in democracy and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent his congratulations a day earlier. As of noon yesterday, 263 high-ranking officials from 47 countries and global organizations had congratulated Tsai via statements, letters, social media posts or recorded footage, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, while releasing a collection of footage sent by selected dignitaries. The governments of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies sent their congratulations, as did the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy,
REASSURING NUMBERS: Taiwan’s test capacity ranks sixth or seventh among 91 nations, and is not low compared with other nations, Chen Shih-chung said The quarantine period for foreigners visiting Taiwan for business would vary based on the COVID-19 situation of the nation or territory that they are coming from, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported the 13th consecutive day of no new cases. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told reporters at the center’s daily briefing that modified rules covering foreign business visitors had been completed and were ready for him to sign. The complete details of the new rules would be released later this week, he said. Foreigners on long business trips would have
The Czech Republic’s Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution that supports a possible visit by the senate president to Taiwan. The resolution, initiated by Czech Senator Pavel Fischer, was passed with 50 votes in favor, one against and one abstention. The resolution blasts Beijing for having its Prague embassy send a letter to former Czech Senate president Jaroslav Kubera earlier this year threatening repercussions for Czech businesses if he visited Taiwan. The resolution shows the Senate’s support for a visit to Taiwan by Senate President Milos Vystrcil, accompanied by Czech business representatives, as the visit would be in the diplomatic long-term interests
The government and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday both spoke out against plans by the Chinese government to enact a national security law in Hong Kong. Chinese officials yesterday confirmed that the National People’s Congress would review a bill “on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security.” The Presidential Office said that the announcement was evidence that the “one country, two systems” framework fundamentally clashes with democratic freedoms. The de-escalation of tensions between Hong Kong and Beijing relies on the Chinese government’s willingness to respond to Hong Kongers’ demands,