AFP – Divers pulled at least two bodies from the bowels of a submerged river boat Monday after the overcrowded vessel carrying Muslim pilgrims sank on Thailand’s Chao Phraya river, leaving 18 people dead.
The accident happened on Sunday afternoon near the ancient city of Ayutthaya, a popular tourist attraction, when a boat packed with pilgrims returning from a mosque hit a concrete bank in strong currents.
Scores of people lined the bank on Monday as divers plunged into the swollen, brown waters for the grim task of searching the partially-submerged pleasure boat for the missing. Distraught relatives wept as the body of an eight-year-old boy was pulled from the wreckage and laid in a white plastic sheet, an AFP team on site reported.
The boy was later followed by the corpse of a woman who had been found downstream and was brought to shore on the back of a jet ski. Rescuers used a white board to keep track of those still missing including six children.
Ayutthaya deputy governor Rewat Prasong later said the confirmed death toll stood at 18 with 12 missing and 14 hospitalized. The dead were not thought to include any foreigners.
The boat’s captain is in custody and faces a negligence charge after allowing the double-decked vessel to become overcrowded, police said.