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TheWorldTonight: Britons among 57 dead as boat sinks; ACCIDENT: Captain quoted as saying he did not want to sail because of overcrowding.

Byline: By Simon Baker and Kim Pilling

ABOUT 13 Britons are believed to have been among 57 people killed when a crowded cruise ship sank off the coast of Bahrain.

The vessel was carrying up to 150 passengers, 25 of them believed to be British, when it overturned less than a mile off the coast last night.

Up to 63 people were rescued from the two-deck Arabic dhow, whose owners said may have capsized because of overcrowding.

The passengers on the al-Dana boat were thought to be a mix of Bahrainis, other Gulf Arab nationals and Westerners.

Bahrain's information minister Mohammed Abul-Ghafar said the passengers included 25 Britons. Survivors who arrived at hospitals included nationals of Britain, India, South Africa and Singapore.

The accident itself happened as the boat was returning to the port of Al Muharraq, in the far north-east corner of the island state. US helicopters and divers joined the operation launched by Bahrain's Coast Guard.

Bahrain's Gulf Daily News newspaper reported that construction firm Nass, Murray and Roberts organised the evening cruise to celebrate the completion of the Bahrain World Trade Centre towers.

The boat's owner Isa Al Qobaisi told the newspaper that its captain did not want to take the vessel out to sea as it only had the capacity for 100 passengers.

The boat reportedly set sail from the Marina Club in Manama at 8pm and cruised around the bay. It was scheduled to return at 10pm.

Television footage showed the boat capsized but not sunk, with rescue workers walking on its brown hull.

TV images showed rescue workers taking bodies wrapped in white sheets off a small dinghy.

Scores of officials and relatives waited in the harbour watching the rescue operation.

Bahrain's Coast Guard chief, Youssef al-Katem, said an investigation was under way, although weather conditions in the area were said to be "perfect" for sailing.

Mr Al-Katem added that there were 150 guests at the dinner party aboard the ferry while it was docked. Up to 20 of them were understood to have

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TRAGEDY... Rescuers stand on the sunken boat at dawn today, as bodies of the victims were pulled from the water
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Mar 31, 2006
Words:362
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