PHUKET • Distraught relatives of foreign tourists who died when their boat sank off Thailand's Phuket island descended on a hospital yesterday as rescuers halted plans to lift the sunken Phoenix.
Recovery divers have pulled 41 bodies from the sea off the resort island, but the authorities have said 15 other passengers remain unaccounted for. Forty-nine people have been rescued.
The Phoenix was carrying 105 people - mostly Chinese tourists - when it sank on the way back from a popular snorkelling spot last Thursday.
Relatives have been asked to identify their next-of-kin through photographs and to provide DNA samples.
Ashen-faced family members wiped back tears in a waiting area at the Vachira Phuket Hospital yesterday, while several became increasingly agitated when asked for further information.
"I've already told you the name, why can't you take me there now?" a man was heard shouting at hospital staff.
A Chinese woman, who wanted to be identified only by her family name Su, said she was still waiting to claim the body of her sister, Ms Su Jiao Min.
"There should definitely be compensation (for the accident)," she told Agence France-Presse, while waiting to be signed in at the hospital. "But I don't want to talk about that right now. All I want is to identify and claim (my sister's) body and return home."
Some have called for legal action to be taken. The boat was among three vessels that ignored a bad weather warning against day trips to the islands surrounding the tourist magnet of Phuket.
Two other boats, including a yacht, also capsized in the same area last Thursday, but their passengers were brought safely to shore.
Police said last Saturday that they had charged the ship's captain with negligence leading to damages, injury and death. The captain has denied the charges, said police.
A note that was circulated by rescue workers invited reporters to join an effort yesterday to raise the sunken Phoenix.
However, the plans were later delayed due to heavy waves, said the navy commander, Vice-Admiral Somnuk Prempramoj, who is based in the area and is part of the search operation.
The Thai navy said that 25 of the bodies retrieved so far were found in the vessel, which is submerged over 40m below the surface of the Andaman Sea.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS