17 tourists rescued from burning boat in Ha Long Bay

By Thuy Hang, Thanh Nien News

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Twenty-three people, including 15 foreigners, were rescued when their boat caught fire while touring Ha Long Bay, the famous destination in northern Vietnam, on Thursday.
Local authorities later suspended operation of the boat’s owner, Cuu Long Tourist Boat Co. Ltd., to investigate the incident, which has been the second tourist boat fire in Ha Long Bay this year.
According to the company, the tour began on Wednesday noon with 23 people aboard, including two Vietnamese and 15 foreign tourists.
After spending the night in the bay, it was heading ashore the next morning.
The fire broke out when the boat was near Trong Mai (Fighting Cock) Rocks.
Rescue boats were dispatched to the site and managed to save all people aboard along with their luggage.
The fire was extinguished about one hour later, leaving the boat heavily damaged.
A member of the rescue team told Thanh Nien that the fire was possibly caused by a cooking gas tank explosion.
Another witness on a nearby boat said he heard two explosions before seeing
smoke and flames billow from the boat.
Speaking at a press conference held later that day, Mac Quang Gieng, vice director of Quang Ninh Department of Transport, said the ill-fated boat met safety regulations and requirements for staying in the bay at night, adding that the captain was also eligible.
However, the company, which has two boats operating in Ha Long, will not be allowed to resume its activities until authorities conclude their investigation, he said.
Ha Quang Long, director of the province’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said authorities will tighten their control over fire and explosion prevention on local boats operating in the bay.
Violators will be strictly punished, he said.
On February 18, a tourist boat with two photographers and six crew members also caught fire when it was sailing a kilometer southeast of Titov Island.
The boat burned down and sank, but no casualties were reported.
A few similar fire incidents took place in previous years.

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