Saturday, 26 September 2009

Ferry disasters - an anniversary

In the Philippines, hearings are being held into the sinking of SuperFerry 9 off the Zamboanga Peninsula three weeks ago with the loss of ten lives (see my blog of Sept 6), but today also marks the seventh anniversary of one of the world’s worst ferry disasters – the wreck of the Joola off the coast of West Africa.

The ship was en route from Ziguinchor in Senegal to the capital Dakar on September 26, 2002. Because it was low season for tourism, there were few vehicles on the car deck, but many more passengers than the 536 the Joola was supposed to carry, making the vessel dangerously top heavy.

As it was hit by a fierce rainstorm on the starboard side, people rushed to port to take shelter, and the ferry capsized almost immediately. Just 64 people survived, mainly picked from the sea by fishermen. It took the official rescue services eight hours to respond, and Senegal’s ministers for transport and the armed forces both resigned, while the commander of the navy was sacked.

It is estimated that up to 1,940 people lost their lives. For the full story, see A Disastrous History of the World.

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