Twelve dead in tourist boat disaster in Ha Long Bay

Twelve people, most of them foreign tourists, died Thursday when their tour boat sank in Vietnam's famed Ha Long Bay, a government official said.

US citizen George Fosmire (2L), 23, a survivor from the tourist boat that sank in Halong Bay, along with two other unidentified survivors (L and 2R) talk with two unidentified Hanoi-based diplomats as they prepare to leave a hotel in the northeastern Vietnamese city of Ha Long on February 17, 2011.

Some survivors were plucked from the water by local fishermen following the pre-dawn disaster at one of the country's most popular tourist destinations, renowned for its many limestone towers.

"We recovered the bodies of five foreign tourists and a Vietnamese tourist," said Vu Van Thin, a senior official with the Quang Ninh province People's Committee, the local government.

The nationalities were not immediately clear, he said, adding that about six other foreign tourists were missing.

The boat was carrying a total of 19 foreign visitors and two Vietnamese at the time, said Doan Manh Linh, assistant director at Quang Ninh's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

"Some tourists were saved by local fishermen," Linh said.

The Dan Tri news website quoted Do Thong, vice-president of the People's Committee, as saying the foreigners came from a variety of Western countries.

About 10 of them were rescued at around 0200 GMT Thursday and taken to hospital, he said.

Dan Tri said the accident occurred just before dawn.

"According to our initial information part of the boat suddenly broke," but bad weather was not to blame, Thin told AFP.

Many Ha Long Bay tour boats have dining facilities and cabins for tourists to spend the night on the waters.

Ha Long Bay, located in the Gulf of Tonkin about 160 kilometres (100 miles) east of the capital Hanoi, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.

Its 1,600 islands and islets form a spectacular seascape of mostly uninhabited limestone pillars made famous by the 1992 French movie "Indochine".

It is not the first time disaster has struck at the popular tourist attraction.

In September 2009 three foreign tourists -- two from Britain and one from France -- died along with their local guide when their vessel overturned during heavy rain on the bay.

Official data show that in the first 10 months of last year more than 2.3 million tourists visited Ha Long Bay, roughly evenly split between local visitors and foreigners, with almost 200,000 boat trips during the period.

 List of tourists who were rescued

1. Marie Elisabeth Stobbe (Female-born in 1990): Danish

2. Kasper Pedersen Kammersgaard (Male-1987): Danish

3. Claudio Scattarelli (Male-born in 1990): German

4. Sacconi Stefand (Male-born in 1978): Italian

5. Corda Stefand (Male-born in 1975): Italian

6. George William Fosmire (Male-born in 1988): American

7. Nguyen Duy Khuong (Male -born in 1975): Australian 
8. Dany Michel Abrard James Eddy (Male-born in 1983): French

9. Smhidli Ramona (Female-born in 1990): Swiss

List of victims

1. Stuart McCormick (Male-born in 1980): British

2. Holly Michelle Pyle (Female-born 1985): American

3. Taylor Samantha Kay (Female-born in 1989): American

4. Voropinova Elena (Female-born in 1962): Russian

5. Voropinova Anastasia (Female-born 1987): Russian 

6. Nakahara Jumpei (Male-born in 1990): Japanese

7. Laetitia Noblecourt Francoise Monique (Female-born in 1983): French

8. Viola Bankestad Birgitta (Female-born in 1991): Swedish

9. Ellen Anna Krok (Female-born in 1990): Swedish

10. Gerber Baniamin Charly (Male-born 1985): Swiss

11. Dinh Van Thang (Male-born in 1983): Vietnamese

12. Lam Ngoc Chau (Male-born in 1979): Australian

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