A floating raft restaurant in the south-central province of Ninh Thuan collapsed on Saturday, sending more than 300 guests to fall into the sea, with two confirmed dead later the same day.
The accident occurred at around 10:00 am, when one of the docks of the Vinh Tien Seafood Restaurant raft, anchored some 50m from the shoreline at the Vinh Hy Bay, collapsed, according to eyewitnesses.
Panicked guests immediately tried to escape from the sinking restaurants, but most of them eventually fell into the sea.
Local fishermen from the nearby rafts then rushed to rescue the tourists, but there were not enough life vests for all of them.
Rescuers focused on saving children and women first, whereas hundreds of others jostled to come ashore, eyewitnesses said.
As of 2:00 pm, Ninh Thuan authorities confirmed that two were dead in the accident, whereas four were hospitalized in critical conditions.
By the end of Saturday, divers confirmed that there were no more bodies.
Nguyen Quang Huynh, deputy head of the province’s border guard unit, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the 600-square-meter raft, owned by Vinh Tien Co., is capable of hosting as many as 500 people at a time.
At the time of accident, there were 375 people, including more than 300 tourists brought to the restaurant by Vinh Tien Co., and the eatery attendants.
Relevant agencies in Ninh Thuan are passing the buck on the responsibility of the fatal accident.
The floating restaurants used to be fishing rafts managed by the provincial agriculture department, but have recently been ‘upgraded’ to become seafood selling venues.
The agriculture department said it is not to be held accountable for such seafood restaurants, passing the responsibility to the tourism department.
And yet the tourism department also denied responsibility, saying it is the agency in charge of overseeing sea transportation activities to blame.
In the latest development, the Ninh Thuan administration has suspended all floating restaurants in Vinh Hy Bay following the Vinh Tien accident.