49 missing after boat overturns in seas off Thailand, governor says

A boat carrying dozens of Chinese tourists overturned Thursday afternoon in rough seas off southern Thailand and 49 passengers were unaccounted for, a local governor said. Strong winds were still blowing as searchers looked for the missing off the tourist island of Phuket in the Andaman Sea.

Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong said 48 passengers were rescued from the boat, with 49 unaccounted for.

A police official had earlier said 90 people had been rescued from the boat and just seven were missing. The reason for the discrepancy was not clear.

A second boat also overturned at another location off Phuket on Thursday afternoon. But officials said the 39 Chinese and European tourists forced to abandon that boat were rescued and have returned to land.

In this photo released by the Thailand Royal Police, rescued tourists from a boat that sank are helped onto a pier Thursday, July 5, 2018, on the island of Phuket, southern Thailand. A boat carrying dozens of Chinese tourists overturned in rough seas off southern Thailand and dozens of passengers were unaccounted for, the Phuket governor said. (Thailand Royal Police via AP)

A boat carrying dozens of Chinese tourists overturned in rough seas off southern Thailand and dozens of passengers were unaccounted for, the Phuket governor said.  (AP)

Thai media showed photos of people rescued from one of the boats in large rubber life rafts at sea, with fishing boats and churning water in the background. They also showed survivors being lifted from the rafts and sitting in their life jackets amid ropes on the deck of what appears to be a fishing trawler.

Phuket officials had earlier issued a warning of severe weather until next Tuesday, including heavy rain and winds.

"All agencies are co-operating in their search at this time," Norraphat said. "We have given warnings ... but the winds are strong."

He said officials would consider whether to ban boats from going to sea during strong winds.