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British passenger accounted for in Bahrain sunk boat

Written by: Staff
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MANAMA, Apr 1 (Reuters) Rescue workers today pressed on with a search for one passenger still missing from a cruise boat that capsized off Bahrain's coast killing at least 57 people, mostly foreigners.

One Briton who rescuers had also tried to find was accounted for after she was rescued by a dhow, officials said.

''She did not report to the police or go to any hospital so she was unaccounted for until very recently,'' Interior Ministry spokesman Colonel Tareq Al-Hassan told a news conference.

He did not identify the woman, whose rescue increases the number of survivors to 68.

Earlier today, a helicopter circled the clear sky and Bahraini navy ships scoured the water for the woman and the other missing passenger after their twin-decked boat went down late on Thursday.

A witness who was on a nearby boat told Al Arabiya television that most of the dead had been in an enclosed restaurant when the boat listed. Those on the top deck jumped free of the vessel and waited to be rescued.

The boat trip was sponsored by companies involved in a major construction project in Bahrain.

South African construction firm Murray&Roberts said most passengers were employees of the firm, its partner Nass and subcontractors, and their families.

Authorities have detained the boat's captain for questioning after concerns arose about his qualifications and whether the boat was overloaded.

Officials have said 126 people were believed to have been on board. Tourism sources said the vessel had a capacity of 100.

''The captain was only a sailor and not qualified to operate the ship. The prosecutor's office has detained him and his assistant,'' prosecutor Nawaf Hamza said on Friday.

The boat's owner said the top-heavy vessel capsized when passengers gathered on one side, Al Arabiya television said.

GRIM TOLL The dead were: 21 Indians, 13 Britons, five South Africans, five Filipinos, four Singaporeans, four Pakistanis, two Thais, a German, an Irish citizen and a South Korean.

Families of the British victims were expected to arrive in the Gulf Arab state on Saturday to claim the bodies, while a team from Britain's Foreign Office and the Red Cross had already landed, the British Embassy in Manama said.

Outside the Bahraini intelligence office, Frank Morais waited to pay his last respects to his friends Nagbhushan Pilla, 31, and his wife, Shashi Kala, who drowned.

''I came to identify the bodies and pay my last respects before they are sent to India. We are surprised because if it was such a big occasion, why weren't there any precautionary measures taken,'' Morais told Reuters.

Murray&Roberts Chief Executive Brian Bruce told Reuters in Dubai by telephone no lawsuit had been brought against the firm.

''There has been nothing so far. ... Anything is possible,'' he said, adding that they were working with Bahraini authorities and were offering counselling to the victims' families.

REUTERS SK RN0142

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