UPDATE: 44 victims of Phuket tour boat sinking found so far; one known to be trapped in wreckage

Photo: Facebook/ PR Phuket 2018
Photo: Facebook/ PR Phuket 2018

As a nation cheers the rescue of four more boys from a cave in northern Thailand last night, the aftermath to an oceanic disaster described by Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports as “secondary to the tsunami” is still unfolding in Phuket.

At a morning press conference, Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong announced that rescue parties had in the past two days recovered three more bodies of those drowned in the sinking of the tourist ship Phoenix.

Two bodies were found near Koh Mai Thon yesterday. Another body was found washed up on a beach of Phi Phi island this morning.

All three bodies are now at Vichara hospital where they are being identified and cross-checked with Chinese authorities and Phuket Immigration officials. Nearly all of the passengers on the snorkeling excursion were Chinese tourists.

This morning, officials concluded that only two people are still missing.

As of now, officials have found 44 bodies in the water and surrounding beaches. Of that number, 37 have been identified, while one body is known to be in the sunken ship’s wreckage but has not yet been accessible to divers attempting to retrieve it.

Meanwhile, new information that emerged yesterday led to revised passenger totals than were previously released to the press.

An official at Phuket’s Incident Command Center for Vessel Crash Victims, who requested to remain anonymous, told Coconuts that the number of passengers on the Phoenix was originally miscalculated. An earlier estimate of 93 passengers on board has been lowered to 89 after it became clear that five tourists listed on the passenger list had never boarded the boat.

New figures, which were confirmed by Phuket’s public relations office, show that the Phoenix carried a total of 103, including 89 tourists and 14 crew (two more than initially believed).

“The five [passenger] names were on the list initially provided to us, so we assumed they were also missing. It wasn’t until later that we discovered that they decided not to take the boat tour,” the official told Coconuts.

Three of those tourists have already returned home while two others are awaiting their flights.

Sea, air, and shore patrols, meanwhile, are continuing around the clock, per the provincial governor, who added that all identified bodies can now be collected by relatives.

One of those relatives, a 54-year-old Chinese man and sole survivor of his family said in an interview published on Saturday, that he just wanted Thailand to find the bodies of his wife, child, son-in-law, and a 18-month-old granddaughter.

“I want to dress them up one last time,” the man told Cijing, a Chinese news site, as he showed the camera his family’s remaining clothes and belongings.

The heartbreaking news clip went viral in Thailand, after popular Facebook page Aizhong China translated it to Thai.

“I’m the only one left. What am I going to do now?” the man said in the video.

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