Nineteen people were injured and 11 hospitalised after more than 40 people abandoned an Australian tourist boat that burst into flames and sank on the Great Barrier Reef.
It’s the second time in just a few days that a cruise boat has erupted into fierce fire and forced tourists to jump for their lives. The other one was in Vietnam. See: Tourists leap for their lives as ship bursts into flame
The more recent burning boat was a 23-metre catamaran, Spirit of 1770. The fire took hold off the central Queensland coast after a suspected engine room explosion. Unlike the Vietnamese boat, which was docked, the Australian vessel was on the open sea, 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometres) from Lady Musgrave Island, east of Gladstone.
The Spirit of 1770’s 42 passengers (mainly Chinese tourists, according to Nine Network) and four crew were forced to leap from the burning boat and take to life rafts as the conflagration spread rapidly from the engine room.
Three volunteer marine rescue vessels were sent to collect the group but they did not reach shore for several hours, the Guardian reported.
Gladstone police Inspector Darren Somerville told ABC Radio the incident had terrified the tourists.
“We’re just thankful that everyone is accounted for and no one suffered any major injuries.”
The Spirit of 1770 was returning to the town of 1770 after a day trip to Lady Musgrave Island.
The catamaran last hit headlines when it ran aground in January 2015 after being hit by a “freak wave” while ferrying passengers back from Lady Musgrave Island.
Written by Peter Needham