Consultant says that six of its staff and two relatives died and that another friend or relative is still missing.

Consultant Atkins has confirmed that six of its staff died in the Bahrain boat disaster last Thursday, along with two relatives.

The company said that another friend or relative of its staff is missing, presumed dead. A further three staff members survived the disaster.

The six Atkins staff who died have been identified as: Andrew Debrunner, resident engineer; Basanth Kumar, senior site electrical engineer; Carl Ottwell, construction supervisor; Jason James Brett, assistant project manager; Sameer Thorat, resident architect, and Scott Belch, assistant resident engineer. Scott Belch's wife Sandy Belch and Jason Brett's wife Lucinda Lamb also died in the incident.

Atkins chief executive Keith Clarke has flown to Bahrain to support the families of those who died. He said: "We are still trying to come to terms with what has happened. We are doing all we can to ensure the bereaved receive as much support as possible and this will continue indefinitely."

The Bahraini pleasure boat was only licensed as a 'floating restaurant', it emerged this weekend.

Bahraini interior ministry spokesman Colonel Tarik al-Hassan said the vessel was licensed as a boat, not a pleasure cruiser, and an application for the correct licence was still being processed when the tragedy happened on Thursday night. British foreign minister Kim Howells said it was an accident that 'should not have happened'.

Investigations into the tragedy, which happened as contractors were celebrating the topping-out of Bahrain's World Trade Centre, will now focus on the final few minutes before the boat set sail.

Survivors claim that long discussions took place between the vessel's captain and the tour operator which organised the cruise before it cast off. The boat capsized about a mile from shore.

Some 16 people are said to have disembarked the boat before it set sail because they felt uneasy about it. The boat had been unsteady at its jetty, and there was a half-hour delay in departure.