British tourist dies as Vietnam boat sinks

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The Independent Online

A British tourist was killed when a boat sank at a beauty spot in Vietnam, it was confirmed today.

The official Vietnam News Agency named the victim as Stuart Mccormick, who died in Halong Bay with 10 other holidaymakers from around the world and a local guide.

Another nine foreigners and six locals were rescued by other tour boats.

Vietnam's foreign ministry confirmed the survivors as two Danes, one German, two Italians, one American, one Australian, one French and one Swiss.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware that there have been a number of fatalities - including foreign nationals - in the boat accident off the coast of Halong Bay.

"We can confirm that one British national has been killed. Next of kin have been informed.

"A consular team from the British Embassy has been on the scene and working with the local authorities and hospitals to establish whether any other British citizens are involved."

One of the country's leading tourist attractions, Halong Bay draws more than five million visitors a year to see the jagged rock formations that dot the coastline, with many tourists staying overnight on wooden boats equipped with sleeping cabins.

Survivors reported seeing a wooden plank on their ship ripping away at around 5am as the vessel was anchored for the night, followed by gushing water inundating the boat and quickly pulling it under near Titov island, according to Vu Van Thin, chief administrator of Quang Ninh province.

"Crew members tried to stop the water from coming in and alerted the tourists who were sleeping, but the water came in and the boat sank quickly," he said. "All of the 12 people who died were in the cabins."

There were 27 people, including six crew members, aboard the boat and all have been accounted for, Mr Thin said.

The vessel, which is owned by Truong Hai Co, was anchored alongside dozens of other cruise boats and weather conditions were calm at the time of the sinking.

The dead have been sent to Bai Chay Hospital for identification, while survivors received treatment for minor injuries, said Ngo Van Hung, director of Halong Bay's management board.

Halong Bay has become increasingly popular with UK travellers, particularly divers for its coral reefs and freshwater swamp forests.

The bay is near the Chinese border in the Gulf of Tonkin, about three hours east of the capital Hanoi.

Many tourists stay overnight on boats with sleeping cabins to cruise the picturesque limestone pillars of the Unesco World Heritage Site, which includes 1,600 islands and islets.

In September 2009 two British tourists drowned after a packed boat overturned in wild seas in the area.

The passengers - Tim Roney, 21, and Karen Puddifoot, 27 - died alongside a French man and two Vietnamese people when the vessel capsized with 25 passengers and seven crew members on board.

The pair were taking part in an around-the-world trip to raise money for the British Lung Foundation when they died.