Tourists forced to jump from ferry in Thailand as fire breaks out

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Tourists in Thailand have had to jump overboard after their ferry caught fire on the way to Koh Tao, which is an island particularly popular with backpackers.

Terrifying footage shows huge flames and smoke billowing from the blackened ferry after its passengers made a lucky escape.

About a decade ago, Koh Tao was dubbed ‘Death Island’ by foreign media following the murder of two British backpackers, along with other tourist deaths and disappearances.

The ferry that caught fire on Thursday morning was travelling from Surat Thani in southern Thailand with about 97 Thai and foreign passengers, who were all rescued, Police Colonel Chokchai Sutthimek, superintendent of the Koh Tao Police Station, said.

There were 11 Burmese boat crew, who were also rescued.

Some passengers suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation.

Tourists panic as Thailand ferry catches fire off 'Death Island' Koh Tao

“The vessel involved was the Ko Jaroen 2, a night ferry that also serves as a cargo boat. It was bound for Koh Tao and left the pier from Surat Thani at 11 pm last night,” Sutthimek said.

‘The fire originated in the engine room while the boat was mid-sea and approaching the pier at Koh Tao, causing panic among passengers, some of whom jumped overboard.

“After receiving the report from authorities and boat operators at Koh Tao, we swiftly dispatched a rescue boat to evacuate all passengers and crew back to the coast.

A Surat Thani resident who was on the ferry at the time told The Associated Press the rescue boats could not get close enough to the ferry out of fear of explosions, meaning people had to jump into the sea to be rescued.

“We could barely get the life vests in time,” he said. “It was chaotic. People were weeping … I also teared up.”

Footage showed passengers wearing life jackets gathered on the highest points of the vessel as smoke billowed around them.

There were also cars and motorbikes seen on the ferry.

An investigation has now been launched to determine the cause of the fire.

Just two days earlier, a diving boat was also engulfed in flames in southern Thailand.

No injuries were reported in that fire as only one person, who managed to jump into the water to escape, was on-board at the time.

In 2015, a 12-year-old tourist died after a ferry burst into flames while travelling from Krabi to the island of Phuket.

More than 100 other passengers were rescued but the girl went to the bathroom just before the fire broke out at the stern of the vessel.

– with Viral Press