Eight dead, dozens missing after boat sinks off Thai coast

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Thai rescue divers' ship, right, and a Thai Navy ship are seen during a search mission for missing passengers from a capsized tourist boat in the water off Phuket, Thailand.

The vessel, which made a day trip from Phuket despite a weather warning, keeled over after it was battered by five-metre high storm waves.

Tourism Minister Weerasak Kowsurat said the government will "spare no one" as it seriously investigates the tragedy, one of the largest tourism-related disasters in Thailand since a 2004 tsunami that killed thousands.

Divers on Friday reported seeing "over 10 bodies" floating inside the hull of the boat, which is submerged 40 metres below the surface of the Andaman Sea.

Divers who entered the wreck of the tour boat Friday described heart-breaking scenes of bodies of children found in the arms of their mothers.

A search resumed for some 23 missing tourists on a boat that sank during a storm off the southern resort island of Phuket.

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The boat was carrying 105 passengers, mostly Chinese tourists, when it sank.

"The skies were clear when we went out, we had no idea the weather could change so fast", said Wu Jun, 28, from the hospital bedside of his wife Long Hai Ning.

The Thai authorities have provided conflicting information regarding the total number of people who were on the two boats and a jet ski that sank on Thursday afternoon in rough seas. The commander of Phuket Provincial Police, Teerapol Tipcharoen, said the sea had calmed since Thursday evening's accident and the search was ongoing.

Another two boats, including a yacht carrying 39 people, also capsized but its passengers have been brought to safety.

Ambulances unloaded bodies at the hospital on Phuket's east coast that received most of the casualties, as staff escorted visibly distressed family members to a waiting room.

The governor of southern Phuket, Noraphat Plodthong, said: 'There are 53 people missing.

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Narongsak said he's not sure if the five people remaining in the cave will be extracted in one or more operations.

Local media reports said that police charged the owner and captain of the stricken ship with carelessness causing death and injury.

The Phoenix was among several boats that appeared to have ignored a warning in place since Wednesday not to take tourists on day-trips to the islands that dot the seas off Phuket.

Several other vessels hit trouble late on Thursday, but all of their passengers were rescued.

In a separate incident - which has transfixed Thailand and the world - monsoon rains flooded a cave in northern Thailand, trapping 12 boys and their soccer coach deep inside.

In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesman said China's top leaders, including President Xi Jinping, were paying close attention to the incident. At least 12 of the injured were hospitalized.

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More than 20 people have died and dozens more are still missing after a passenger boat capsized off the holiday island of Phuket in Thailand.

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