Tourists escape Thai ferry blaze

BANGKOK (AFP) - Scores of foreign tourists endured a dramatic sea rescue after a blaze devoured a ferry travelling between two resort hotspots in southern Thailand, police said Wednesday.

Speedboats raced to evacuate 117 passengers from the stricken vessel which started spewing smoke and flames on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after it left Krabi for the island of Phuket on the kingdom's Andaman sea.

Krabi police said no-one was injured in the fire, although it was unclear if an Israeli woman was missing.

"One female was reported missing but it is not yet clear if she was trapped inside the boat or if she didn't board in the first place. We are investigating," Police Colonel Sanya Meksai told AFP.

Thailand is desperate to burnish its reputation as a tourist haven after 11 months which have seen a military coup, martial law, and scandals including the brutal murder of two British backpackers last year.

Officials have said tourists have returned in droves during the current peak season which is drawing to an end.

The kingdom remains blighted by poor safety standards and accidents which frequently involve tourists.

Overcrowded ferries are notorious for capsizing, catching fire or hitting rocks.

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