An anchored boat packed with sleeping travelers sank early Thursday in Vietnam's scenic Ha Long Bay, killing 12 people from nine countries in the deadliest tour boat accident since the country opened to foreign visitors 25 years ago.
Vacationers from the U.S., Britain, Australia, Japan, Russia, France, Sweden and Switzerland have been confirmed dead, along with a Vietnamese tour guide, the government said, according to the Associated Press. Another nine foreigners and six locals were rescued by other tour boats.
The Viet Nam News listed the names of the twelve victims, and reported that their bodies had been recovered.
Ha Long Bay, with its stunning jagged rock formations, draws more than five million visitors a year, many of whom stay overnight on wooden boats equipped with sleeping cabins.
The 12 sightseers who died were sleeping in their cabins below deck, according to local police, while several others were taking pictures as the sun rose over Halong Bay.
But the vessel, the Truong Hai, experienced engine problems and began sinking at around 5 a.m.
Survivors reported seeing a wooden plank on their ship ripping away, followed by gushing water inundating the boat and quickly pulling it under near Titov island, said 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, Thin said.
The vessel was anchored alongside dozens of other cruise boats and weather conditions were calm at the time of the sinking.
According to one local boatman quoted by Britain's Daily Mail, the vessel was "small and very cheap."