Pattaya: Thai divers today searched for the wreck of a crowded tourist ferry which sank leaving six dead including three foreigners, as rescuers recounted plucking victims from the water.
Three Thais, one person from Hong Kong and two other unidentified foreigners were among the dead, according to police in the tourist resort of Pattaya, around 150 kilometres southeast of Bangkok.
They said all of the other 150-200 passengers were believed to have been rescued. Nineteen people were also injured.
The double-decker ferry went down yesterday afternoon near Koh Larn, a small island popular with day-trippers from Pattaya, a popular beach resort renowned for its racy nightlife.
"We don`t expect to find any more dead. One Russian boy is seriously ill in intensive care," said Pattaya police chief Colonel Suwarn Chiewnawintawat.
"The captain ran away. We will issue an arrest warrant for him," he said. "Divers will recover the boat today. We still don`t know the cause."
Stunned tourists yesterday were seen being led to safety on shore where they were met by dozens of ambulances along Pattaya`s neon-lit beach front. Medics performed emergency first aid on injured passengers.
Accidents involving boats, buses and other forms of public transportation are common in Thailand, where safety standards are generally poor.
"We still don`t know the reason for the accident. I am not sure if there are more dead or not, because we don`t know how many people were on the boat," Thai rescue diver Suttipong Boonmachai said.
"Today we are going to recover the boat. We will use underwater detection equipment," he told on Pattaya`s main pier.
A local boat captain who witnessed the tragedy recounted throwing life jackets to passengers floating in the water.
"I saw 100 people, most of them foreigners, in the water," he said. "I threw 50 life jackets into the water. There was one man, he was not breathing. We pulled him out of the water."
Russian news reports said three Russians, including a child, had been taken to hospital in a serious condition.
"At least half of the passengers were Russian tourists," a Russian embassy official in Bangkok was quoted as saying by the Ria Novosti news agency.