Of the 89 tourists that the Phoenix was carrying when it capsized and sank late that afternoon, 47 Chinese tourists died.
The stricken vessel now lies on the seabed at a depth of about 45 metres, some 1.5 nautical miles off Koh Hei, south of Phuket.
Marine Department Director-General Jirut Wisanjit arrived in Phuket yesterday (Aug 13) in the hope of announcing that the Phoenix had been refloated, but strong wind and waves again delayed progress in the salvage operation.
Also present for the fanfare were former Phuket Marine Chief Phuripat Teerakulpisut, who is currently Director of the Marine Department Region 3 office, near Bangkok, and fellow former Phuket Marine Chief Surachai Burapanontachai.
Wiwat Chitchertwong, who is the Director of the Ayutthaya Regional Harbor Office but is now Acting Director of the Phuket Marine Office, was also present.
Mr Wiwat was appointed Acting Phuket Marine Chief after Surat Srisaiyason, the ‘incumbent’ Director of the Phuket Marine Office, was transferred in the aftermath of Phoenix disaster, though the official Phuket Marine Office website still lists as him the Phuket Marine Office Chief. (See website here.)
Of note, Mr Surat has not been named among any of the people under investigation for the disaster.
Marine Department Director-General Mr Jirut explained late yesterday that the salvage team had managed to attached three of the four tethers to the hull of the sunken Phoenix, but efforts to continue had been hampered by poor weather.
“Due to the sea waves and the strength of the tide, this could not be done safely,” he said.
“Tomorrow (today, Aug 14) we will have another boat in position to get the ship up straight. It is expected that the boat can be raised and hopefully back on land by tomorrow evening (Aug 14),” he said.