Tourists jump into sea to escape ferry fire off Krabi
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Tourists jump into sea to escape ferry fire off Krabi

Photo from Jor Sor 100 twitter (@js100radio)
Photo from Jor Sor 100 twitter (@js100radio)

A 12-year-old Israeli girl trapped inside a bathroom died as 100 other frightened passengers and crew were rescued from the blazing Ao Nang Princess 5 tourist ferry off Krabi.

The Israeli child was given a family vacation in Thailand as a bat mitzah celebration present.

"She must have suffocated to death as the fire neared," said Nati Hadad, a rescue worker.

Pol Capt Sutthiwat Aunsiam, a duty officer at Muang Krabi station, told Jor Sor 100 radio late in the evening that rescue units searched for the girl in the toilet near the engine room but the heat of the fire prevented a close search.

Krabi Governor Songpol Sawasditham said more rescue staff and divers including personnel from Third Naval Area Command will join the search of the stricken ship on Thursday.   

Pol Capt Sutthiwat quoted Wirat Jittaraporn, the captain of the Ao Nang Princess 5 ferry with 104 passengers and crew onboard, as saying the vessel was about seven to eight kilometres from Railay beach near Ao Nang when he heard the explosion from the engine room. 

He immediately ordered everyone to don life jackets and prepare to abandon ship. The fire quickly engulfed the ferry and burned it to the waterline before it sank off Krabi's Noppharat Thara beach.

A swift rescue effort from nearby fishing trawlers and pleasure craft saw all of those on board except the Israeli child plucked safely from the sea. No injuries were reported.

The fire began in the engine room at the back of the 35-metre long and 4.5-metre wide ferry at 3.30pm when it was about eight kilometres off Noppharat Thara beach, Boonchao Tangsiripaisarn, director of Krabi’s Marine Office 5 told Jor Sor 100 traffic radio station. 

About a dozen fishing trawlers, speed boats and rescue craft from police and marine authorities raced in at the first sign of trouble. 

Passenger Panupon Rattanakornpanya, 44, told Thai Rath Online, that crew members told him and his wife and child that a fire had broken out and ordered everyone to gather at the bow. 

“The fire then grew stronger. Everyone was in a panic. Some were crying. Many grabbed jackets and passed them on to others before we jumped into the water,” he said.

Mr Songpol said the ferry was equipped with fire extinguishers, "but in this case it appeared [the crew] were not able to control the blaze and this must be investigated again".

The sunken ferry was operated by Ao Nang Travel and Tour Co.

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