Vietnam: Tourists rescued from Halong Bay boat fire
11 Jan 2017 - 13:18
HANOI, Vietnam: A Halong Bay tourist cruise boat burst into flames Tuesday morning in the most recent accident to hit one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist attractions.
All 21 people onboard the boat, which was returning from a two-day cruise after spending the night anchored in the bay, were rescued by nearby vessels before the boat’s superstructure was destroyed, reported the Tuoi Tre newspaper.
The boat was carrying 14 foreign tourists at the time in addition to one Vietnamese guide and six crew.
Halong Bay, which is off the coast of northern Vietnam’s Quang Ninh province, is home to around 1,600 towering limestone islets adjacent to the South China Sea.
Although its natural beauty is among Vietnam’s most famous tourist draws, accidents have destroyed one boat annually during excursions since 2015.
A fire forced 36 tourists to jump overboard from their boat last year, while 16 tourists were rescued under similar circumstances in February 2015.
The worst incident occurred in 2011 when a ship quickly foundered in the early morning hours, killing 11 people who were sleeping in their cabins at the time.
To address safety concerns, authorities announced plans last March to phase out fire-prone wooden boats over a five-year period.
Plans to ban overnight cruises, which put passengers at greater risk of death if an accident occurs while they are asleep, have also been floated but not yet implemented.
Around 3.5 million tourists visited the bay in 2016, according to government statistics. Almost all visitors opt for boat cruises.