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A Briton is believed to be among 12 people, many of them tourists, killed when a tourist boat sank in Vietnam.

Boats sail between limestone islets in Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is popular with tourists, travellers and backpackers

The vessel was touring the popular attraction of Ha Long Bay when it apparently started taking on water as passengers slept in their cabins.

It is believed that 27 people, including six crew members, were on board.

Twelve bodies have been recovered. Nine of the dead are tourists from countries such as Britain, the US, Australia, Sweden and Japan.

The bodies have been sent to Bai Chay Hospital for identification.

Nine foreign tourists and six locals were rescued and rushed to hospitals by other tour boats anchored nearby.

Those rescued reported seeing a plank of the wooden ship ripping away, followed by water rushing into the boat and pulling it down.

The tourists were asleep at the time in their cabins and many may have not had time to evacuate the boat.

Weather conditions were said to be calm.

Local Vietnamese media identified the boat as the cruise ship Truong Hai QN5198.

Ha Long Bay is located near the Chinese border in the Gulf of Tonkin and is one of Vietnam's most visited areas.

The bay is a Unesco World heritage site dotted with limestone formations - visitors cruise the bay on small boats and then often sleep overnight on larger vessels or traditional Chinese junks.

More than 100 cruise boats are licensed to offer overnight services.

It is not the first tragedy in the bay to have claimed the lives of locals and tourists.

In 2009, a tour boat sank during a storm on the bay, killing five, including three foreign tourists.

In 2006, a powerful storm in the area also capsized several boats, killing 13 people, though no tourists were among the dead.

And in 2002, strong winds capsized two tourist boats, killing several foreign visitors.

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