By Philip Wen and Chayut Setboonsarng
PHUKET/BANGKOK, Thailand (Reuters) - Relatives of Chinese tourists missing since a Thai tour boat sank near the holiday island of Phuket were desperate on Sunday for news of their loved ones.
Rescuers were preparing to lift the sunken Phoenix which went down in bad weather on Thursday with 105 people on board, including 93 Chinese tourists and 12 Thai crew, one of Thailand's worst accidents in recent history.
Authorities have confirmed 41 deaths and said 15 people remained missing. Divers, including 17 from China, planned to retrieve a body from the sunken vessel on Sunday.
Aircraft and rescue ships extended the search area from Phuket to the island of Phi Phi and Phang Nga province. Teams were also searching the coastline on foot, officials said.
Li Ming, who had five family members on board including two seven-year-old nieces, said he and a cousin flew to Phuket from China's eastern Jiangsu province on Saturday after losing contact with their relatives.
Li said his two nieces died in the accident and three adult family members were still missing.
"There are so many family members back home waiting on our updates," he said. "The hardest thing is waiting. This kind of pain most people just can't understand.
Some relatives gathered at a hospital on Phuket where they were asked to provide information about their loved ones, including identifying marks or tattoos.
Police on Saturday said they charged the ship's captain with negligence leading to damages, injury and death. The captain has denied the charges, police said.
The Phoenix overturned in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Ko He, which is a popular one-day trip from Phuket. The islet is known for its powdery beach and coral reefs.
Two other boats, including a yacht, also capsized in the same area on Thursday, but their passengers were brought safely to shore, officials said.
Some Thais have questioned why the boat was even at sea during bad weather.
In an urgent circular on Saturday, China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism said tourism departments across China should carry out security checks against hidden risks to ensure travel safety during the summer period.
It also stressed the importance of researching online travel companies when booking overseas trips.
Many of the tourists involved in the Phuket accident booked their trips independently via online tourism platforms, the ministry said.
(GRAPHIC-Boat sinks off Thai island of Phuket, https://tmsnrt.rs/2Nufryw)
(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Chayut Setboonsarng in BANGKOK and Philip Wen in PHUKET; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by G Crosse and Darren Schuettler)