Tour boat sinks in southern Vietnam; 15 missing

A double-decker tour boat capsized amid strong winds during a birthday party.

Updated: May 21, 2011, 16:06 PM IST

Hanoi: Fifteen people, including five children, were reported missing and feared dead in southern Vietnam after a double-decker tour boat capsized amid strong winds during a child`s birthday party, an official said on Saturday.

Several people, including two Chinese passengers, managed to swim to safety following Friday evening`s incident, said Le Van Hieu, chief of Binh Nham village in Binh Duong province, some 19 miles (30 kilometres) northwest of Ho Chi Minh City.

He said a family was having the party while cruising the Saigon River. The boat was only about 100 yards (meters) away from the terminal when it went down around 7 pm.

According to state-run media, a Vietnamese businessman was throwing the birthday party for his three-year-old son. The reports said the father managed to survive, but that nine family members — including his wife and two children — were still missing.

"There are almost no chances for their survival," Hieu said.

Authorities suspect that strong winds and heavy rains may have caused the boat to capsize, he said.

Hundreds of soldiers and police were mobilised for a search and rescue operation. They located the sunken boat and were expected to pull it from the water later Saturday, Hieu said, adding that strong currents were hindering divers from reaching the vessel.

The boat, which is a floating restaurant and popular for parties, belongs to a local tourist company in the province. It can carry up to 75 people.

In February, Vietnam experienced its worst foreign tour boat accident when 11 vacationers from nine countries, along with their Vietnamese tour guide, drowned when the overnight boat they were sleeping on sank in northern Ha Long Bay, one of the country`s must-see sites.

Earlier this month, another tour junk went down in the bay while serving 28 French tourists. No one was injured.

Bureau Report