Vietnam Boat Sinks, Killing 12 People from Nine Countries

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AP

An anchored tourist boat sank in Vietnam's scenic Ha Long Bay early Thursday morning, killing a dozen people from nine countries as they slept in their cabins.

The tragedy is the deadliest tour boat accident since Vietnam opened to foreign visitors 25 years ago, reports the Associated Press.

Two Americans were among those confirmed dead, as well as vacationers from Britain, Australia, Japan, Russia, France, Sweden and Switzerland. A Vietnamese tour guide also perished. Most of those who died were between the ages of 20 and 25.

Another nine foreigners and six locals were rescued by surrounding tour boats as the ship sank into the calm, emerald waters of Ha Long Bay.

"All of the 12 people who died were in the cabins," says Vu Van Thin, chief administrator of Quang Ninh province. He says survivors reported seeing a wooden plank ripped from the ship when the vessel anchored around 5 a.m., followed by gushing water flooding the boat and quickly pulling it under.

"Crew members tried to stop the water from coming in and alerted the tourists who were sleeping, but the water came in and the boat sank quickly," says Van Thin.

All 27 people aboard that boat, operated by Truong Hai Co., have been accounted for. Those who died have been sent to Bai Chay Hospital for identification, where survivors received treatment for minor injuries.

"This is a very rare and very unfortunate accident," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga tells AP.

Police have launched a criminal investigation, and Phuong Nga says tour companies should work to improve safety measures in Ha Long Bay.

More than 100 cruise boats are licensed to offer overnight service in Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site dotted with limestone formations. According to government websites, the area received 5.4 million visitors last year, nearly half of them foreigners.

Boats have sunk in the bay before, but this is the first incident that happened in calm weather. A tour boat sank during a storm in 2009, killing five, including three foreigners. Thirteen people were killed when several boats capsized during a powerful windstorm in 2006, though none of them were tourists.



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