The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Disastrous end to dinner cruise

March 31: A dinner cruise off the Bahrain coast ended in death last night for 18 Indians and 39 other expats when the wooden sailboat capsized barely a kilometre from a causeway linking two islands.

The boat’s owner said the Indian captain had refused to sail when he counted 137 on board the traditional dhow, which had a capacity of 100, for the corporate party.

“When the captain saw how many people were boarding and how much stock was being loaded for the party, he didn’t want to put out, but the organisers insisted,” Al Qobaisi said.

One of the 30 Indians among the 67 survivors said the boat was sailing slowly when it lurched around 30 degrees on one side and then suddenly tilted to the other side and began to sink.

The boat owner suggested most of the passengers had gathered on one side, upsetting the vessel’s balance.

“The sea was calm, there were no heavy winds or waves,” said Aqeel Mirza, who watched the tragedy from 100 metres on a nearby boat. “Suddenly, the boat overturned on one side in seconds, and two seconds later the lights went out and then we started hearing the screaming.”

Most of the 57 who died 'another 13 were still missing tonight ' were inside the enclosed restaurant, Mirza said. “Those on the top deck jumped off and waited for rescue.”

By this morning, only the upturned brown hull was visible, with empty orange life-jackets bobbing alongside. Rescue workers tiptoed on the hull, taking out bodies wrapped in white sheets and using pickaxes to try and break through the bottom of the vessel in search of the missing.

Some 36 of the 67 survivors were taken to hospital ' shivering and wrapped in blankets, their hair still wet ' to be treated for injuries. Three of the 17 injured Indians were still in hospital, one of them “with a serious brain injury”, the health ministry said.

Rescue workers on the wrecked boat in Bahrain. (Reuters)

Officials said there was no indication of a terrorist attack. The captain was detained for questioning after being given first aid in hospital.

The 120-odd passengers from 16 countries were employees of companies ' South Africa’s Murray & Roberts, Nass and their subcontractors ' that had completed a major construction project in Bahrain, and their families.

The 18 Indian victims are: Sikhil Babu, Abdul Latif Abdul Wahab, Saravana Kumar Murugesan, Nag Bhushan Pillay and his wife Shashi Kala, Chennalappan Thirugnan, Santosh Chakra Puthenpurq, Kuthyil Mohd. Majeed, Saur Suhar Thorar, Mathukumar Murugan, Arby Mathews, Basant Kumar, Clarence William, Sayeed Farooq Syed Ahmed, Siru Arby, Uday Raj, Alok Kumar Verma and Mohammad Hasnein.

Apart from Shashi Kala and Siru Arby, the rest are male. Hasnein is from Bihar but most of the others are probably from southern India.

The dead include 13 Britons, five Pakistanis, four South Africans, four Singaporeans, three Filipinos, a German and an Irish citizen.

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