SEVEN people died Monday after an overloaded boat sank in coastal waters off Koh Kong province, local officials said Wednesday, adding that four passengers were rescued.
Toun Sela, governor of Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel district, said tragedy struck on Monday after a family from Phnom Penh,who was visiting relatives in Sre Ambel district, rented a boat for a pleasure trip out to sea.
“They took a small boat that normally takes five or six people, but there were 12 people in the boat,” he said, adding that after leaving land, the boat sank when it got caught in a whirlpool.
Toun Sela said one of five people rescued on Monday later died. The bodies of six other passengers were not recovered until the following day.
“This is the first case of a boat sinking in Sre Ambel district, and it is because of an accident and carelessness,” he said. “I want to send a message to all people who like going out to visit the river or the sea, that they have to take care of themselves and they should not get over-excited without thinking about their safety.”
Mao Hak, director of the Department of Hydrology and River Works at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said weather conditions were normal, and that the sea around Sre Ambel District often appears calm and therefore safe, but that people should be careful, as the area can be treacherous.
He said that boat owners had a responsibility to warn renters about boat safety. “Most boat owners do not care about the safety of renters. They always overload boats,” he said, adding that many owners have life jackets but do not advise their customers to wear them.
He said that the ministry would resume a public-awareness campaign about water safety and urged people to follow the advice given.
“The ministry often used to inform people and publicise warnings for all boat drivers along the Mekong River and the sea to be equipped with life vests to protect their lives from disasters, but people have ignored these warnings,” he said.
Toun Sela said the bodies of the victims have been sent to a Koh Kong pagoda for a funeral ceremony.
The boat owner could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.