|Date||5 July 2018|
|Location||Near Phuket, Thailand|
|Also known as||Sinking of MV Phoenix and MV Serenita|
|Cause||Storm, Substandard Shipbuilding, Permitting Failures |
On 5 July 2018, two tourist boats capsized and sank near Phuket, Thailand, during a sudden storm. Forty-six people died and three were missing, all of whom were on the double-decker ship Phoenix PC Diving, which carried 101 people, including 89 tourists (all but 2 were Chinese nationals). All 42 passengers aboard the second boat, Serenita, were rescued.
On Thursday 5 July 2018, the double-decker cruise boat Phoenix PC Diving sailed from Phuket, one of the most visited resorts in Thailand, for Koh Racha, a popular snorkeling island off the coast of Phuket. She carried 101 people, including 89 tourists, all but 2 of whom were Chinese nationals, 11 crew members and a tour guide. The boat set off despite a severe weather warning against "strong winds and storms", which had been in effect since 4 July. Survivors reported that the sky was clear at the time of departure, and a number of other boats, including the Serenita, also ignored the warning.
When returning from Koh Racha, the Phoenix was caught in bad weather off the coast of Phuket, with waves reaching 5 meters (16 feet) high. Somjing Boontham, the captain of the Phoenix, said that as the huge waves slammed the boat, his crew members frantically lowered the lifeboats and he urged the passengers to put on their life jackets. Some passengers, including children, made it to the lifeboats, but others were presumed to have been trapped inside the ship when she overturned and sank.
A fishing trawler nearby arrived at the scene and was able to rescue 48 passengers from the water. Another woman was rescued several miles away from the boat, although several other people found with her were all dead. Thirty-seven people were sent to hospitals in Phuket for treatment.
Phuket's provincial government organized a search-and-rescue mission involving helicopters and police and fishing boats. As of 6 July, 33 bodies were found and 23 people were still missing, all Chinese nationals. Most of the passengers found were wearing life jackets.
Diplomats from the Chinese consulate and the embassy in Bangkok rushed to Phuket to visit the survivors and assist with search and rescue. Chinese divers who had gone to northern Thailand to assist in the Tham Luang cave rescue also went to Phuket to search for possible survivors in the sunken ship, which was believed to be 120 feet (37 m) under water.
As of 12 July, 46 people were confirmed dead and 3 were still missing. All of the dead and missing passengers were Chinese tourists, who constitute more than a quarter of foreign tourists in Thailand. Thirty-seven passengers on board the Phoenix were employees and family members of Haipai Furniture Company in Haining, Zhejiang Province. Nineteen of them were rescued.
Another tourist boat, the Serenita, sank in the same storm near the small island of Koh Mai Thon off Phuket. All of the 42 people on board were rescued. A jet ski also sank and its occupants were rescued. Ten other boats were stranded in the storm on 5 July.
According to the press on 9 July, Thailand deputy prime minister Prawit had given a response to the accident. He said "according to the Police Department's investigation, the accident boat was hired by a Chinese travel agency, and the agency is an illegal 'zero money paid tour group'. " He also said that they didn't listen to the warning sent by the weather bureau, so the accident was in no relationship with Thailand's tourism.
But Chinese travel agency denied Prawit's sayings. Said that, first of all, the tour group's members all paid reasonable prices, and then, the boat wasn't warned. A anonymous Thai tour group principal said that in the early morning of 5 July, boats were indicated that the weather will be fine, and only a small alarm had been sent to some of the fishing boats late that afternoon.
A Thai Official later apologized for the earlier response, and promised to compensate each victim at the price of approximately CNY 200,000.
Following the Marine Office's announcement that the police would take over the salvage investigation after the contracted salvage team dropped out, Immigration Bureau Maj-Gen Surachate Hakparn said the salvage operation would be completed by November 12, 2018. The salvage, utilizing a crane shipped from Singapore, contains important evidence for upcoming court cases according to the police.