A boat carrying 21 people – 14 of them tourists – caught fire in Halong Bay, Vietnam on 10 January. No recorded injuries or fatalities have been reported at the scenic destination, popular with Western travellers and honeymooning couples.
The junk boat had moored overnight in the bay and was returning to the Tuan Chau port when it suddenly burst into flames. Emergency services were alerted and sped to the scene in time to rescue the tourists, six crew members and lone tour guide from the blazing vessel, before any of them were harmed. The cause of the fire is unknown.
Footage, taken from another tourist boat, shows a thick ball of flame glowing in the dawn's early light while it sends billows of grey smoke up into the atmosphere – just as emergency service boats circle the hazard.
Junk boating in the Unesco world heritage bay is one of the most popular tourist experiences in Vietnam. Situated on the Communist state's north-eastern coast, Halong Bay boasts around 2,000 individual limestone islets and is just a 3.5-hour drive from the capital, Hanoi. Operators compete fiercely for tourist bookings by offering them discounted packages.
Quang Ninh province deputy chairman Vu Van Dien has demanded an instant safety inspection of all the boats in the bay, according to Tuoitrenews. The January 2017 incident was at least the third reported boat fire in Halong Bay since February 2016. According to local authorities, the passengers intend to pursue compensation.