Thai authorities said on Monday that five passengers who boarded a capsized tourist boat in Phuket, Thailand, and are considered missing may actually be safe.
Local authorities originally listed 14 people as missing, but hotel check-in and checkout information has led Thai and Chinese authorities to now suspect that five of the passengers survived the accident.
Still, the authorities have not been able to contact them, Phuket provincial Governor Norraphat Plodthong said during a news conference in Phuket on Monday.
He said that the latest information also shows four people did not board the Phoenix before the boat and another tourist boat, the Sereneta, capsized in rough seas off the southern Thai resort island of Phuket on Thursday, so there were actually 89 passengers onboard, instead of the original 93 as said soon after the tragedy.
While a death toll of 42 was listed by Thai authorities on Sunday, Chinese authorities officially listed 41 as dead on Monday.
A person whose body is believed trapped under the Phoenix wreckage would not be listed as dead until the body is recovered, officials said.
The six currently listed as missing include that person, but not the five thought to be safe.
Phuket police chief Major General Theerapol Thipcharoen said during the news conference that local police would continue investigating the companies that owned the two boats.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said in Bangkok on Monday that the owner of the boat tour operator that organized the deadly trip is a Chinese citizen, and a police investigation shows the operator insisted on continuing the tour despite weather warnings, Thailand Headlines reported.
"The search and rescue mis-sion had to be suspended around noon as sea conditions deteriorated and waves reached three meters," said Liao Wei, a member of the rescue team of Ram Union, a Chinese nongovernment team. The team arrived at Phuket on Saturday to join the search.
On Monday, about 30 family members of those who were killed in the incident met Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha when he visited Vachira Hospital in Phuket where the bodies are kept, said a Chinese volunteer who didn't want be named. Plodthong said 37 bodies had been identified.
"The family members expressed their demands to the prime minister," said the volunteer, who has been assisting the families in translating paperwork to bring the bodies or ashes of their loved ones home.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Monday that the Thai government has set up three liaison centers in Phuket to provide one-on-one assistance to the victims and their family members.
Also, staff members from the Chinese embassy in Thailand have been assigned to airports and hospitals to help those who are affected by the tragedy, Hua said.