Police rejected the claim, saying crew members had stayed and helped firefighters extinguish the blaze
Police in the northern province of Quang Ninh have rejected accusations by a German couple that crew members of a Ha Long Bay tour boat abandoned 19 passengers when a fire broke out late last month.
Martin Thordsen, 27, and Dorothy Bielfeldt, 24, told the German tabloid Bild on December 29 that they were among 19 tourists from five countries onboard the boat for their Christmas vacation.
They said it should be a romantic boat trip until fire broke out from the upper deck.
The flames quickly engulfed the boat. Smoke thickened, leaving all the people in panic.
Thordsen said that they were afraid that gas tanks on the boat would explode. There were only old life jackets on the boat, he added.
According to the couple, the crew members first tried to extinguish the fire but all the extinguishers were empty. The crew was the first to leave the boat, while the tour guide was terrified, Thordsen claimed.
But a report by Quang Ninh’s firefighting police said the crew onboard the tourist boat QN-4239 of Hoa Phuong Do Company had tried to put out the fire with fire extinguishers but strong winds made it very difficult to do so.
Pham Thanh Long, a police officer, told Tuoi Tre that five crew members cooperated with local authorities to completely extinguish the blaze.
Long said the fire extinguishers on the boat worked properly, adding that the incident was caused by short circuit and strong winds worsened the situation.
An official of Quang Ninh's tourism department said he was sorry for the incident and promised to investigate the claims made by German tourists.
On December 25, the boat was approaching Reu Islet in Ha Long when its crew discovered a fire on the upper deck. The fire then consumed the deck.
Local authorities were called in and they mobilized boats and ships nearby to help.
All people on the tour boat -- 19 tourists, a tourist guide and five crew members -- were rescued. The upper deck was totally destroyed.
Authorities then suspended Hoa Phuong Do Company's fleet of tourist boats pending investigation.
Following the incident, Quang Ninh police launched an inspection, checking around 500 tourist boats in Ha Long and Bai Tu Long Bay.
They have fined 24 boats for failing to meet fire safety requirements.