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Ship Capsizes Off Coast of Bahrain; At Least 57 Drowned

At least 57 people have drowned off the coast of Bahrain after a boat sank on what was supposed to be a celebratory dinner cruise. Police say 67 people survived the accident, and another 13 are still missing. Most of the passengers were foreigners.

Witnesses and survivors say the wooden boat had been listing to one side before it suddenly flipped over, flinging terrified passengers and crew into the water.

The ship's owner has indicated that it might have been overloaded. Bahrain's interior ministry says there were 137 people aboard the vessel when it capsized nearly two kilometers out to sea. A representative from the company that owned the boat told state television that it was only licensed to carry 100 passengers.

Interior ministry spokesman Col. Tarik Al-Hassan says the cause of the disaster is being investigated. He says the captain survived and is being questioned.

"The captain is still under investigation, as [is] the rest of the whole accident," he said.

A local company hired the boat for a dinner cruise to celebrate the completion of a major construction phase of the World Trade Center in the capital, Manama.

Col. Al-Hassan said most of the passengers on board the doomed boat were foreigners.

"They come from 16 different nationalities, including Bahrain, Philippines, South Africa, Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the United States, Nepal, Pakistan, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Great Britain, India and Egypt, and we still have 11 not identified yet," he noted.

So far, 17 Indians and 13 Britons are among the dead. The other victims identified so far include four South Africans, four Singaporeans, three Pakistanis, three Filipinos, a German, and one person from Ireland.

The Bahraini Coast Guard started rescue operations shortly after the boat went down, aided by helicopters and divers from the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain.

Some of the survivors were uninjured, but others have been admitted to local hospitals for medical care, and a few of the injuries are reported to be severe.