Dramatic photos and video are circulating of tourists leaping for their lives as a wooden cruise ship burst into flame while docked in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.
A video of the vessel burning fiercely was on YouTube last night:
Ha Long Bay, sometimes spelled Halong Bay, hosts hundreds of cruise vessels of all sizes, some of them styled on junks, others large and modern. At last count, a total of 533 tourist ships were operating across Ha Long and Bai Tu Long bays, 202 of which dock overnight there and 81% of which are wooden ships.
The three-story Aphrodite cruise ship caught in the blaze this week was reportedly carrying 37 tourists from Taiwan, France, Switzerland, Britain, New Zealand, Korea and India when it caught fire.
Many of those aboard jumped overboard and were plucked from the water by the crew of other boats in the harbour. Only four injuries were reported yesterday and they were described as minor.
Passenger ships will soon be banned from staying overnight in Ha Long and Bai Tu Long bays, local authorities in the northern province of Quang Ninh said. In the near future, only daytime travel will be allowed in the sea.
Aphrodite Cruises said on Facebook it was “deeply saddened” by the incident.
The statement read:
“Aphrodite Cruises is deeply saddened to report that a fire incident on our cruises no.1 whilst docking at Tuan Chau Harbor and taking guests off.
“The investigation has been conducting by both the company and the authorities into the circumstances causing this tragic accident.
“The cause of the accident is unknown at this time and further details will be provided as they become available.
“Upon discovering the fire, the captain and the crew has organized to rescue and take the guests to safe place. At the same time, report to Quang Ninh authorities. After receiving the information, they have quickly organized to investigate the cause of the incident. Fortunately, no human losses.
“At the time being, there are currently 3 guests suffer minor injuries and being treated at the Bai Chay hospital. Yesterday afternoon, Aphrodite Cruises representatives visited guests and reassure them. All remaining guests moved to Hanoi or continued their schedule. Aphrodite Cruises combined with 7 travel agencies that had customer on board to reassure them and ensure the rights of travelers. We also cooperate with the authorities to lift the ship and guarantee environmental hygiene.”
A later company statement said four people had suffered minor injuries “including one crew member”.
“More than 40 people on board with 37 foreign tourists who come from Taiwan, France, Switzerland, UK, New Zealand, Korea, and India. 33 passengers were taken back to Hanoi safely,” the statement said.
“Regarding the cause of the incident, Colonel Vu Van Duong (deputy director of fire protection police in Quang Ninh) said that (usually, incident is related to electrical or gas used in the kitchen. It could be due to careless visitor and staff who smoke and ignore fire prevention.
“Mr Duong said that the wooden ship with many flammable substances, is not equipped with automatic fire-fighting system, so when the fire starts it become very difficult to control. The crew members on board were recognized as qualified in fire-fighting operations.
“‘The particular cause is under investigation. We will provide the information as soon as possible’ said Mr. Duong.”
Aphrodite said it would “assist in the process of treatment; complete insurance procedures and will pay all treatment fees for these guests.
“Aphrodite cruise will compensate the customer based on the declaration of assets and assessment of damage from the authorities.”
Written by Peter Needham