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Boats capsize in Thailand leaving dozens missing

Rescue teams and medical personnel attend to dozens of passengers of a capsized boat. Courtesy: BBC

At least one person has died and dozens are missing after two passenger boats capsized off the coast of the island of Phuket in Thailand, officials say.

Some 48 passengers were rescued by a fishing trawler when one of the vessels, carrying 97 people, overturned in strong winds and rough seas.

Another 39 people were saved when a second passenger boat overturned.

Search and rescue efforts by the Thai Navy were hampered by conditions and have been suspended until Friday.

“There are 53 people missing,” the governor of southern Phuket, Noraphat Plodthong, told reporters on Thursday, adding: “We have stopped the rescue, we’ll start again in the morning.”

The incidents occurred at about 17:45 local time (11:45 GMT) on Thursday.

According to Thai authorities the larger vessel, a diving boat named the Phoenix, was carrying Chinese tourists, many of whom are still missing.

The body of a man wearing a life jacket with the Phoenix company logo was pulled from the sea late on Thursday.

The second boat was carrying mostly European passengers, all of whom were picked up and are accounted for.

Footage and images captured in Phuket showed tourists huddling in blankets, while others looked distressed as medics tended to the injured.

Mr Noraphat earlier said that a further 10 smaller boats were also stranded at sea.

“There were high winds this evening,” he said, adding that a weather warning had been issued because of “strong winds and storms” on Wednesday.

In a separate incident, two Russian tourists on a jet ski near the island of Koh Racha had to be rescued after they were caught by the severe weather conditions.

Thailand is bracing for the arrival of the monsoon season, which will bring heavy rain and storms to the area.