At least 15 pilgrims die in boat capsize north of Bangkok, 11 still missing

This morning, search and rescue parties have resumed the operations to find 11 still missing people in the Chao Phraya river, after a boat carrying at least 150 people sunk in the river on Sunday. The search operation was put on hold at nightfall on Monday, but was resumed once again this morning, with at least 10 professional divers scouring the Chao Phraya, in search of the missing.

“The death toll is now confirmed at 15, with 11 people still missing. Fourteen people are still in hospital. (…) the rescue operation resumed this morning to find those missing. The boat driver may not have been used to this area and there was a strong tide,” said Ayutthaya deputy governor Rewat Prasong to AFP reporters.

The tragedy took place close to the ancient city of Ayutthaya. The boat was transporting Muslim pilgrims when it capsized after hitting a concrete bank. In the initial moments, at least 10 people were feared dead, but later estimates went higher.

“The boat tried to avoid another vessel and crashed into the concrete column of a bridge,” said Udomsak Khaonoona, disaster prevention chief of Ayutthaya city, which is 80 kilometres north of Bangkok.

thaiboat2At least one of the casualties is a child, and tens of survivors have been rushed to the hospital. So far, no foreigners were confirmed to have been on the boat.

Local television channels broadcasted live images of the boat and the plight of the pilgrims trapped on it, pilgrims who were returning from a religious ceremony to honor a famous local cleric. Victims were retrieved from the Chao Phraya, while others were given first medical attention right on the banks of the swollen river.

The Chao Phraya river is one of the main traffic arteries crossing through Bangkok, with hundred of thousands of people using it for transport in the area every year.

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