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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 April 2006, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Bahrain boat 'was not licensed'
A Bahraini policeman looks at the wreckage of the capsized boat

A boat which capsized off Bahrain with the loss of at least 58 lives was not licensed to sail as a pleasure cruiser, officials have said.

The boat was registered as a fishing boat and had permission only for use as a floating restaurant, said interior ministry spokesman Col Tariq al-Hassan.

A cruise permit had been applied for but had not yet been granted, he said.

A representative of the company that chartered the boat for a staff party has insisted it was not to blame.

The boat's captain is being questioned by local prosecutors, who have suggested he was not qualified to be in charge.

Some 71 people survived the tragedy, while one woman, from the Philippines, remains missing, according to Bahrain's interior ministry.

I could just hear screams all around and wasn't sure whether I would reach home that night
Survivor Ashokkumar Subbiah

Officials in Bahrain say it is too early to say what caused the boat to overturn, killing mainly foreigners including 22 Indians and 13 Britons.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Bahrain says the revelation that the boat did not have the right paperwork - in a country where regulations tend to be followed - only adds to the questions being raised.

The boat was in the style of a traditional Arab dhow but rather than being made of wood was made of much lighter fibreglass, our correspondent says.

In addition, three extra decks had only recently been added to the top which could have made the boat less stable.

The coastguard has said it never expected to see the boat go to sea, our correspondent adds, although it probably sailed past its headquarters many times.

'Happened so quickly'

Most of those on board were employees of South African-based Murray and Roberts, which had chartered the cruise to celebrate completion of part of the Bahrain World Trade Centre towers.

22 Indians
13 Britons
5 South Africans
5 Filipinos
4 Pakistanis
4 Singaporeans
2 Thais
1 Irish
1 German
1 South Korean
source: Bahrain interior ministry

Manager Simon Hill, who survived the disaster, said the company had told the captain not to sail if it was unsafe.

He described how a number of passengers had been uneasy about the boat's swaying while it was still moored and had got off before it left.

Discussions followed between the tour operator and the boat's owners and captain, Mr Hill said.

"We asked the captain if he was happy to leave, and if he wasn't he should say so, and we would not leave. At 8 o' clock we sailed."

Bahrain survivor Simon Hill
Before I knew it I was in the water, under the water, and there were people everywhere in the water
Survivor Simon Hill

Mr Hill recounted how he was thrown into the water as the boat capsized.

"One minute we were stood talking, and having a good time, enjoying a very nice evening, it was a pleasant evening. And then in seconds, it went very quickly.

"I looked and I saw people sliding down the boat to one side, through the gap, and before I knew it I was in the water, under the water, and there were people everywhere in the water."

Bahraini officials have said those who died were of 10 different nationalities, including Egyptians, Filipinos and South Africans.

The boat's owners, the al-Dana company, have blamed overcrowding, pinning responsibility on the tour company operating the vessel, Island Tours. It has been unavailable for comment.

Graphic based on latest information available

The scene of the disaster

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