Desperate search for almost 50 Chinese tourists after boat overturns off Thailand

Image      Phuket in southern Thailand is a hot-spot for tourists

A rescued woman wearing a life jacket hugs a man after a boat capsized off the tourist island of Phuket, Thailand July 5, 2018 in this still image taken from video.

The first body was found early Friday, and 12 more were found just before noon, according to Thai News Agency.

The governor of Phuket said strong winds were hampering the search, which began Thursday when the boat-carrying mostly Chinese tourists-was caught in a sudden storm around 4 p.m. while returning to Phuket from a day trip to the nearby island of Koh Racha.

All boat passengers were Chinese tourists, officials said.

Thai media showed photos of rescued people in large rubber life rafts at sea, with fishing boats and churning water in the background.

In a separate incident in the same area Thursday evening a yacht called the Senerita carrying 39 people also capsized, the official added.

"Navy divers, frogmen and marine police divers have already been sent to the scene", Rear Admiral Charoenphon Khumrasee, deputy commander for Thai Navy in the southern region told reporters.

Thailand is already making global headlines after 12 boys and their junior soccer coach were found alive this week after becoming trapped inside a cave in the country's north.

Ambulances could be seen waiting for various people to be rescued.

Governor Noraphat said Phuket officials had issued a weather warning on Wednesday alerting the public about impending storms.

A Chinese consular official arrived at the operations centre in Phuket to monitor the rescue effort.

"Around 70 of the passengers were rescued and taken safely to the shore", he said, requesting not to be named. The fates of passengers aboard that vessel are unknown, Sophakarn said.

Thailand has a sketchy health and safety record and accidents are common on its roads and busy waterways - especially during the monsoon season which is now biting.

"They were all Chinese visitors - apart from two farang", he said using Thai vernacular for Westerners, adding around half the passengers were unaccounted for.

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