A Scottish tourist who had to jump for his life from a burning cruise ship in Vietnam says it was "just chaos" on board and a miracle no one was killed.

On Friday more than 40 tourists and crew, including Kiwis, plunged into Ha Long Bay to escape the flames as they engulfed the wooden Aphrodite Cruise ship docked in the bay.

Many of those on board were forced to jump over the side to escape, as the wooden ship was quickly engulfed in flames, and were plucked from the water into other boats in the harbour.

Michael Doherty told the New Zealand Herald passengers on board the Aphrodite were left with no option but to jump from the rapidly advancing flames with no life jackets and no clear direction from staff.


He said passengers were guided to an upper deck and left to their own devices as the young crew struggled to deal with the rapidly changing situation.

"The crew did their best but they were all very young and obviously overwhelmed by the circumstances. The passengers were guided to the sun deck of the ship and thereafter given no direction or support. It definitely felt as if it was just chaos.

"My wife and I both had to jump off the ship as it was the only means of escape."

He said official reports that said passengers were safely evacuated from the ship were far from correct.

"This is utter nonsense. As the videos clearly show we had to jump from the rapidly advancing flames with no life jackets and no clear direction from staff.

"When I jumped into the sea, the flames were very close indeed and I feel that it is a miracle that all aboard escaped without any fatalities."

He said his wife was injured as she leapt into the water many metres below and was taken to hospital. She may need surgery, he said.

Mr Doherty said he had now learned there were three similar fires on board the ill-fated vessel in the past year, one as recent as Christmas Day.

"Had we known about the previous fires we would have never taken such a journey," he said.

An Australian on board told the Herald he was one of those that had leapt into the water.

"I climbed over the front balcony down two decks by just dropping and hoping for the best," he said.

The tourist had also snapped a photo of a woman in a pink shirt he believed was a New Zealander jumping off the ship into the water, where her partner already was.

He said there were only two Kiwis on the cruise with him and believed they were both okay.

A video online shows smoke pouring out of the wooden ship's upper decks.

The company has responded to the incident on its Facebook page where it said it was "deeply saddened" to report the news of the fire.

[Update information Fire incident] There are four people suffer minor injuries including one crew member. More than 40...

Posted by Aphrodite Cruises on Saturday, 7 May 2016

It said three guests had suffered minor injuries and were treated at a local hospital, while the remainder were taken safely to Hanoi.

Aphrodite Cruises said an investigation into the fire, which started in the kitchen, was underway.

"The cause of the accident is unknown at this time and further details will be provided as they become available."