A double-decker boat transporting Muslim pilgrims on Thailand’s Chao Phraya River has capsized and more than a dozen people have died.
Udomsak Khaonoona, the chief of Ayutthaya Provincial Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Office, said the deadly incident took place on Sunday, when the boat, carrying 150 people, “tried to avoid another vessel and crashed into the concrete column of a bridge” near the ancient tourist city of Ayutthaya, located about 80 kilometers north of the capital Bangkok.
Nearly 40 people were also injured and many others went missing. Rescue teams continue the search operation for survivors.
Footage aired by the country’s official Khaosod TV showed rescue workers scrambled to reach the partially-sunken boat.
The ill-fated passengers were returning from a ritual.
The Chao Phraya River is the major river running through Thailand as it is a key commuting artery, with its low alluvial plain forming the center of the country. The river flows through Bangkok before pouring into the Gulf of Thailand, and it is often crowded with packed boats plying the waterways at lightning speed.
Thailand holds one of the world’s worst road traffic death rates as safety standards are sometimes well below international norms, and crashes of speedboats travelling between the popular southern tourist islands are also quite common.
The Sunday accident came as the tropical country prepares to welcome a record number of 33 million tourists this year.