Heartbreaking scenes as death toll rises after Thai tourist boat sinks

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Divers who entered the wreck of a tourist boat that sank in a storm off the Thai resort island of Phuket have described heartbreaking scenes of bodies of children found in the arms of their mothers.

The accounts came as the search continued for 18 mostly Chinese tourists missing in a disaster that has left dozens dead.

The death toll from Thursday’s tragedy has climbed to 38, in Thailand’s biggest tourist-related disaster in years.

Divers during the search operation
Divers during the search operation (AP)

“It’s very difficult to see … it’s traumatic, it’s tragic but the best thing to do, our job as divers, is to bring back the bodies to their families,” diver Philip Entremont told reporters.

The boat, with 105 people including 93 tourists on board, capsized and sank after it was hit by 16ft waves.

The death toll jumped after the navy sent divers to the wreck. In images shortly after the sinking, rescued people sat in large rubber liferafts surrounded by churning seas.

Rescued tourists gather on a pier
Rescued tourists gather on a pier (AP)

Prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of Thailand’s military government, expressed his “sympathies and deepest condolences” to the families of the dead.

The government will “exert all efforts to find those still missing and provide support to all survivors of this tragic event”, he said in a statement.

Reports in Thai media said police have charged the owner and captain of the stricken ship with carelessness causing death and injury.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all-out search and rescue efforts, telling the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chinese diplomats in Thailand to take greater measures, and also urging Thai authorities to spare no efforts.

Fatal accidents among foreign tourists at Thai beaches are not unusual, but normally involve drownings in unsafe swimming areas or accidents involving smaller boats.

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