Ayutthaya ferry disaster from the inside
THE CAPTAIN who operated the passenger boat that sank in Thailand’s Chao Phraya river over the weekend has been arrested for violating navigation laws, local authorities say, as the death toll climbed to at least 27 people.
According to local media, initial investigations into the incident revealed that the captain did not hold a valid license to operate the vessel.
The AFP quoted Ayutthaya deputy governor Rewat Prasong as saying that the captain faces charges including having an expired licence and allowing too many passengers on board and negligence that led to death.
“We are still looking for three people – two women and a girl – who have been reported missing by relatives,” he was quoted saying.
A Marine Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to release information, said Tuesday that the search was still continuing for the missing passengers.
In the 4pm incident Sunday, the overloaded boat ferrying over 100 people along the Chao Phraya river north of Bangkok smashed into a pole in front of the Sanam Chai Temple after avoiding a collision with a large cargo boat. It sank rapidly after taking on water just a few meters from the riverbank. Forty-four passengers were hurt.
Some estimates suggest that the boat had more than 150 passengers on board at the time of the accident although the vessel was designed to carry only 50 passengers.
The passengers were said to be Muslims who were headed home from a religious festival.
In wake of the tragedy, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha urged the Interior Ministry to consider providing financial assistance to the families of the deceased, Bangkok Post reported.
Expressing his condolences to the relatives of the victims, Prayuth had also called on the authorities to suspend the operations of the company that owned the boat pending investigations as to whether it tragedy was a result of an accident or due to negligence.
All agencies involved in monitoring public boat transportation have been instructed to step up measures to prevent more boat accidents.
Thailand relies heavily on ferries and boats to support its lucrative tourism industry but safety record is poor.
Reporting from the Associated Press