An overcrowded boat capsized on the Chao Phraya river in the city of Ayutthaya in Thailand killing 13 people. One of the dead is a child, six are men and six, women.
The double-decker boat which was carrying about 150 people was overcrowded, causing it to capsize. Of the people on the boat, most were Muslim pilgrims.
Thirty more people have been injured and several people are still missing following the capsize on Sunday afternoon.
The BBC report on the incident points out that capsizing is an increasingly growing threat to human lives in Thailand. With safety standards routinely flouted, most boats used by commuters to cross the Chao Phraya and to travel along it, are usually overcrowded to the point of crossing over the balance threshold.
Thailand depends on its many rivers for lateral communication, and as such, boats are a popular and cheap option for travelers to avail. The Chao Phraya, which is one of the most important waterways in the country, undergoes several man-made changes in the city of Ayutthaya where the capsize occurred.
The artificial canal ways connect smaller islands to the city and are navigated with boats that have been increasingly made necessary.
A report by CNN of the incident notes the confirmation of the identity of the passengers as Muslim pilgrims.
Police major Thanat Saengaroon spoke to the outlet about the fact that the passengers were mostly traveling to observe a ritual to honor a famous local Muslim cleric at a mosque.
The boat in question sank upon hitting a man-made flood barrier made of concrete. Called ‘the river of kings’ the mighty Chao Phraya is known for its frequent floods that sweeps through the Thailand plains.
During the massive floods of 2011, around 200 factories closed in Ayutthaya alone in addition to ravaging a large section of Bangkok. Repeats of the 2011 floods have resulted in some of the most visible destruction in the last 50 years.
The report on the incident by The Bangkok Post mentions that the water transport was carrying passengers from the heavily populated and central province of Nonthaburi to a mosque in the Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district.
The travelers had gone to attend an annual Islamic religious rite at the mosque in Ayutthaya. The capsize occurred on the way back to Nonthaburi.
The article mentions that according to the director general of the marine department, Sornsak Sansombat, river currents were strong at around 4 p.m. — the time of the capsize.
While close to ten rescue workers have been engaged to save as many of those in the waters as possible and rush them to treatment, police have detained the skipper of the pilgrim ferry boat and is questioning him.
Close to the scene of the capsize was the temple of Wat Sanam Chai, a very popular tourist haunt with ancient origins, located off the main island and towards the west of the city. With its historical ceramic relics, the Wat Sanam Chai pulls a large number of tourists and pilgrims to its doors — most of whom have to depend on passenger boats to reach it.
While graphic images do not do justice to the despair faced by onlookers witnessing the devastation brought about by the overcrowded boat capsizing, the incident stands as a reminder for more stringent safety rules when it comes to passenger boats in Thailand.
[Featured image by Dailynews/AP Images]