At least 57 people, including 13 Britons and 17 Indian nationals, drowned when a cruise ship capsized just off the Bahraini coast on Thursday night in calm waters, the Interior Ministry said. Sixty-seven people were rescued and 13 were missing from the small ship, the Al-Dana, Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Tarik al-Hassan told a press conference Friday.
It was not clear what caused the ship to capsize, but Bahrain television reported Friday the boat's owners as saying the ship might have been overloaded, and have overturned when most of the passengers moved to one side. Al-Hassan declined to give a reason for the accident, saying there might be several factors that contributed to the capsizing. An investigation was under way.
The dead included 17 citizens of India and 13 from Britain , al-Hassan said. He listed the death toll from other nations as: Pakistan five, South Africa four, Philippines three, Singapore two, Germany one and Ireland one. The 11 remaining dead had not been identified. "God willing, there will be other survivors," al-Hassan said.
It is possible that some people tried to swim ashore as the Al-Dana capsized less than a mile off the coast, and that might account for some of the missing, al-Hassan said. "Search and rescue operations continue, and there is close cooperation with the American navy there," al-Hassan said. One of the survivors is an American.
U.S. Navy helicopters and divers took part in the search launched by the coast guard on Thursday night. Bahrain , a tiny island nation on the western side of the Persian Gulf , is the home of the U.S. 5th Fleet. The divers had not found anybody inside the overturned ship, al-Hassan said. He said the ship's captain, a non-Bahraini, had survived and was being interrogated.
The press conference in the Bahraini capital of Manama was the first time the authorities had given the total number of people on the ship as 137. Previously it was reported that about 150 people were on board. The ship overturned while on an evening cruise that was to last several hours. State TV showed rescue workers walking on the brown hull of the small ship.
TV images showed rescue workers taking bodies wrapped in white sheets off a small dinghy. Men carried the bodies away in blankets or on stretchers, while boats with flashing lights moved in and out of port. Scores of officials and relatives waited in the harbor watching the rescue operation. Some helped the rescue workers.
Television footage also showed survivors, appearing in shock and their hair still wet, squatting on the floor of a hospital. Many of them covered themselves with blankets. One male survivor was shown being treated for head cuts.
Survivors hugged each other. Some had blood streaming down their faces. Several wept uncontrollably as friends and relatives tried to calm them. Some survivors needed assistance as they disembarked from a rescue boat that brought them to shore.
Prime Minister Sheik Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa visited survivors in hospital. Health Minister Nada Haffadh told Bahrain television that a total of 24 people had been admitted to hospital. Al-Katem, the coast guard chief, said there had been a dinner party on board Al-Dana before it sailed. He said the first word on the accident came from a survivor who alerted authorities from his mobile telephone saying the boat suddenly listed.
Khalil Mirza, a Bahraini, told the AP early Friday that he made that call. One of only three Bahrainis invited to the dinner party, Mirza said the boat listed as it made a left turn soon after it left the harbor. "People were scared in the water," he said. "They were fighting with each other and screaming", reports the AP.