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Phuket boat sinks: Divers search for missing tourists in water off Thailand

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Thai rescue and paramedic personnel attend to rescued passengers of a capsized tourist boat. Thai rescue and paramedic personnel attend to rescued passengers of a capsized tourist boat.
By Bani Sapra, Kocha Olarn and Dakin Andone CNN

(CNN) -- Divers are searching the hull of a sunken boat off the coast of southern Thailand for more than 50 passengers who are missing after a violent storm Thursday afternoon.

The Phoenix PC diving boat ran into trouble off the coast of the resort island of Phuket when a storm whipped up waves as high as five meters (16 feet), crashing them against the vessel and causing it to keel over.

There were believed to 105 passengers on board the capsized vessel, including 93 tourists, one guide and 11 crew members. Many were thought to be Chinese tourists vacationing at the Thai resort.

Images from the scene posted to the Thai Navy's Facebook paged showed passengers wearing bright orange life vests on inflatable life rafts.

Police Lt. Col. Somsak Sophakarn, the deputy chief of Phuket's Chalong Provincial Police Station, said Thursday that 48 people had been rescued and taken to shore.

The Thai Navy, marine police and local fishermen searched for the remaining passengers Thursday evening, but called off their operation late at night.

They resumed their search again Friday morning, dispatching helicopters, fishing vessels and divers to scour the waters.

Chinese state media reported Friday that one Chinese national had died, and 53 are missing. Of the 53 people missing, 50 are Chinese tourists, according to Xinhua news agency, citing the Chinese Consul General in Songkhla.

Weather satellites showed numerous thunderstorms off the coast of Phuket throughout Thursday, according to the Thailand Meteorological Department.

Two other boats also capsized Thursday. However, all passengers aboard those ships have been rescued, according to Xinhua.

The island of Phuket -- known for its beaches and luxurious resorts -- is one of Thailand's most popular tourist destinations.

CNN's Taylor Ward contributed to this report.

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