Sunken tour boat Phoenix to finally be raised next week

The Phoenix still rests on the bottom of the Andaman Sea, three months after it sank on July 5, drowning 47 Chinese tourists. (Supplied photo)

The raising of the tour boat Phoenix from the bottom of the Andaman Sea is expected to be completed next week, after a brief suspension of work following the death of a member of the salvage crew, Phuket governor Pakkapong Tawiwat said on Friday.

The governor was speaking after visiting the site off the Phuket coast where the salvage crew from Splitz Tech Co is preparing to finally refloat the sunken dive boat and tow it to shore, Naew Na and INN reported.

Heavy rain and stormy seas have delayed the operation, making the divers’ work difficult. The operation was suspended last Saturday after a member of the salvage team fell overboard and died.

Mr Pakkapong said forecast friendlier weather conditions next week should allow divers to attach the air bags that would bring the vessel to the surface. The Phoenix should be back ashore by next Friday, he added.

The tour boat sank in a storm off Koh Hae on July 5 on its way back from a snorkelling trip to the island, drowning 47 of the Chinese tourists it was carrying.

The large loss of life is being blamed for the sharp fall-off in the number of Chinese tour groups visiting Phuket. The situation worsened when a Chinese tourist was found dead at the Ton Nga Chang waterfall in Hat Yai district in Songkhla last month. Police believe she was murdered.

The government is trying to woo back visitors from China, the largest single group of foreign tourists and a vital part of the tourism sector.

The Tourism Council of Thailand expects the number of Chinese tourists to decline this year, for the first time in a decade.

Chinese arrivals fell 12% month-on-month this August, from 983,212 to 867,461, figures from the Tourism and Sports Ministry show. But the total number of tourists from China still grew by 16% to 7.7 million from January to August over the same period last year.

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