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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 April 2006, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
Bahrain deaths 'not firm's fault'
Bahraini police by the wreckage of the capsized boat

A representative of the company that hired a tour boat which capsized off Bahrain, killing at least 57 people, has insisted his firm was not to blame.

Manager Simon Hill, who survived the disaster, said the construction firm Murray and Roberts had told the captain not to sail if it was unsafe.

He said some people were uneasy and got off the swaying boat before it set out.

A government spokesman says the ship, a former fishing vessel, was not authorised to operate as a tour boat.

Interior ministry spokesman Col Tariq al-Hassan told reporters the boat had neither the proper insurance nor approval by the coastguard to sail.

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

At least 67 people were rescued from the vessel, while two remain missing.

Officials in Bahrain say it is too early to say what caused the boat to overturn, killing mainly foreigners including 21 Indians and 12 Britons.

Bahrain survivor Simon Hill
You just do what you have to in those situations, you just pull people out
Survivor Simon Hill

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.

Speaking at a news conference in Bahrain, Mr Hill described how a number of passengers had been concerned by the boat's movement while it was still moored.

"The boat was swaying from side to side, causing several people to feel uneasy. By 7.40pm, 16 people had disembarked," he said.

He said a representative from the tour operator through which it was chartered had given a safety talk, urging people to move below deck to distribute weight more evenly.

The tour operator then spoke to the captain and telephoned the boat's owner, 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."

'Happened so quickly'

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

"You just do what you have to in those situations, you just pull people out," he said.

CONFIRMED DEAD
21 Indians
12 Britons
5 South Africans
5 Filipinos
4 Pakistanis
4 Singaporeans
2 Thais
1 Irish
1 German
1 South Korean
CONFIRMED SURVIVORS
30 Indians
9 Britons
8 South Africans
5 Filipinos
3 Bahrainis
3 Egyptians
2 Singaporeans
1 Bangladeshi
1 Pole
1 Pakistani
1 Nepali
1 American
1 Sri Lankan
1 Thai
"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 16 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.

Abdullah al-Qubaisi, of al-Dana, said the tour operator had insisted on setting sail even though there were too many people on board.

Mr al-Qubaisi told state television the boat was allowed to carry only 100 passengers.

Officials earlier said that they believed there were 137 on board when the incident occurred, but the figure was then revised to 126.

The chief executive of Murray and Roberts has said their understanding was that the boat may have been capable of taking 200 people.

Graphic based on latest information available




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The scene of the disaster




SEE ALSO:
Newly-wed pair among Bahrain dead
01 Apr 06 |  Middle East
Captain held after Bahrain deaths
01 Apr 06 |  Middle East
In pictures: Bahrain boat disaster
31 Mar 06 |  In Pictures
Many die in Bahrain boat disaster
31 Mar 06 |  Middle East
Shipping disasters timeline
03 Feb 06 |  Middle East
Country profile: Bahrain
21 Jan 06 |  Country profiles



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