Recovery divers have pulled 41 bodies from the sea off the Thai holiday island of Phuket, officials said today, 48 hours after a boat capsized in rough waters killing dozens of Chinese passengers.
Many of the dead were found drifting in the sea, still wearing life jackets, several kilometres from where the Phoenix went down after being hit by five-metre (15-foot) high waves in a storm on Thursday evening.
It is one of the worst boat disasters in the recent history of Thailand, a nation with a poor health and safety track record despite being heavily dependent on tourism.
The death toll rose to 41 today, with 15 still missing, according to the Phuket province public relations department.
Seventeen Chinese divers joined the operation today to recover bodies as conflicting figures emerged about the number of dead.
The triple decked Phoenix was carrying 105 passengers, mostly Chinese tourists, when it sank on the way back from a popular snorkelling spot.
The Phuket provincial government has said the island's morgue is full, with Chinese authorities requesting 40 further refrigeration units.
Some 48 people -- passengers and crew -- were rescued on Thursday, while a Chinese woman was plucked from the churning waters yesterday and rushed to hospital in Phuket after spending the night in the water.
Divers yesterday reported seeing "over 10 bodies" floating inside the hull of the boat, which is submerged 40 metres below the surface of the Andaman Sea. Thai navy Rear Admiral Charoenphon Khumrasee has said hopes are now dwindling of finding more people alive.
"Of course we'll continue searching but the chances of survival are low. We will wait for the bodies to float to the top on their own," he said today.
"We aim to find the missing as soon as possible, as well as provide assistance to the injured, and family members of those involved, as well as help them make preparations for the next step," he said.
The Phoenix was among several boats that appeared to have ignored a warning in place since Wednesday against taking passengers on day-trips to the islands that dot the seas off the tourist magnet of Phuket.
It sank in rough weather a few kilometres off the coast of Koh He, an islet known for its coral formations.
Several other vessels hit trouble late Thursday, but all of their passengers were rescued.
Last year 9.8 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand, with five million more arriving between January and May this year.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)