Johanna Powell: Body of British tourist found after boat sinks on Laos rapids

Eyewitnesses said the boat sank in "less than a minute"

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The Independent Online

Rescuers have found the body of a British tourist who went missing after a boat she was on-board capsized in Laos over the weekend. 

Johanna Powell, 37, who lived in Cardiff, disappeared on Saturday after a wooden cruise boat she was travelling on hit a rock and quickly sank on the Mekong River, in the south east Asian country.

Powell, a picture editor for BBC Wales, and three Welsh friends set off in the nine-person vessel from the village of Pakbeng to Luang Prabang at 8am, as part of a 40th birthday celebration, BBC News reported.

She is understood to have been asleep when the vessel split in two as it travelled through the rapids at around 10am.

Local people told The Times that as the river levels were low during the dry season, more rocks were exposed.

Adisak Star, the co-owner of the Nagi of Mekong cruise company, told BBC News the boat "went down in a minute" after hitting a rock.

"We have been running this for 15 years now and this is the first time this happened and I am sorry this happened," Mr Star added.

A spokesman for the firm said. “The body was found some kilometres downstream from where the boat sank - we must assume it is her."

One of the survivors from the accident told BBC Wales the waters in the Mekong were " a washing machine".

She added: "It was terrifying. We all thought we were going to die."

Following the incident, rescuers scoured a 20km stretch of water in the world's 12th biggest river in an attempt to find Ms Powell.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) confirmed a body has now been found, but not yet identified.

A spokeswoman said the FCO was continuing to provide “consular assistance” to Ms Powell's family. 

Last Monday, Powell shared her last photo of herself on Facebook, enjoying a bowl of noodles in Bangkok.

Ms Powell's colleagues at BBC Wales have expressed their grief at the news.

A spokeswoman said: "We are aware that a body has been found in the area where Jo went missing following a boating incident.

"Our thoughts remains with her family, friends and colleagues at this sad time."

Additional reporting by PA