Rescue teams from Laos and Thailand recover 6 bodies late Thursday after ferry capsizes

Introduction: Rescue teams from Laos and Thailand recovered six bodies late Wednesday after a ferryboat capsized in the Nam Ngum River in Pakngum district, Vientiane, on Tuesday, but five children are still missing. The numbers updated at 2PM on Thursday.

Story: The boat was carrying 40 people, of whom 35 were schoolchildren. Also on board were the skipper and four teachers. The other people in the boat survived because they could swim or were assisted by local people.

Authorities said divers recovered the first body of a girl at 4:30pm on Wednesday about 3km downstream from the spot where the boat capsized. Rescue teams continued their search into the night and said they would continue in collaboration with local authorities until they could find the nine missing children.

Interview: Rescue team member

A team member said strong currents were hampering their efforts but the 25 divers taking part in the search would do all they could to locate the other children. Witnesses said the boat was overloaded and was sitting very low in the water.

Interview: Vongdeuane Bounyasaeng, District Governor

In a media interview on Wednesday, district Governor Vongdeuane Bounyasaeng said he believed the ferry boat capsized because it was overloaded and the skipper acted carelessly. He said he was afraid this had resulted in the drowning of eight girls and two boys.

The boat had the capacity to comfortably carry 10-20 people, including the skipper. The skipper has been detained for investigation and possible prosecution by the district authorities on charges of negligence,

Interview: Saythong Keoduangdy, Vice Mayor of Vientiane

The Vice Mayor of Vientiane, Saythong Keoduangdy, said the authorities had sent officials to investigate the incident, adding that to prevent further tragedies all ferries should be equipped with life jackets and passengers should be made to wear them.

Interview: Saythong Keoduangdy, Vice Mayor of Vientiane

Saythong emphasised the need to prevent the overloading of small boats and said authorities should carry out regular safety checks of vessels.

This is the third time an accident involving small river boats has occurred in the last three or four years. Altogether more than 20 people, including the nine children still missing, are believed to have drowned in these incidents, according to local authorities.

The general public, especially river communities, have urged the public works and transport sector to take steps to force ferry boat operators to carry sufficient life jackets for all passengers.

Source: Lao National Television News in English (LNTV)
Broadcast on May 28, 2015