Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 August 2000



(2000), "Marine", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 9 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited



2 April 1999 - Lagos, Nigeria

Passenger ferry George, believed carrying as many as 300 people, sank off Nigeria and hundreds were reported missing today, news reports said. Local journalists said about 25 survivors had been brought to the coastal city of Port Harcourt by this afternoon. Local officials were continuing to send out rescue boats. The vessel went down late last night about 70 miles offshore, the News Agency of Nigeria reported, quoting dock officials in Port Harcourt. Two speedboats proceeded to the scene after word came in of the sinking, the report said. While the ferry has a capacity of 150 passengers, she was believed to be overcrowded and as many as 300 people could have been on board when she sank, witnesses said. The ferry was heading for the town of Nembe, about 50 miles to the south-west, at the time of the sinking. Most of the passengers were believed to be traders.

7 April 1999 - The known death toll from wood passenger ferry George in south-east Nigeria climbed past 100 today after the discovery of more than 50 corpses in the sunken hull, divers said. Diver Jim S. Jim said:

From our estimate, we have more than 50 or 60 corpses trapped inside there, because a whole compartment is filled with human beings who are already decaying.

Another 60 bodies have been found floating in Saint Bartholomew River, about 60km from the oil industry hub of Port Harcourt. The vessel sank six days ago after hitting a submerged obstacle on a journey from Port Harcourt to the Nembe community. Rescuers said most of the dead were women and children travelling home for the Easter holiday. The boat's master, who swam to safety with scores of other passengers, has been arrested on suspicion of negligence.

2 April 1999 - Indian Ocean

Rescuers were still searching last night for 37 crew from mv Manpok, which sank following a collision with m container vessel Hyundai Duke in the Indian Ocean. An Indian rescue vessel and a vessel from Colombo have joined in the search for the missing men. The Hyundai Duke sustained very little damage in the accident except for some "indentations" in her bow.

2 April 1999 - Rescue efforts have failed to find any of 37 North Korean crewmen missing in the Indian Ocean since their mv Manpok collided with m container vessel Hyundai Duke on Wednesday, the South Korean shipper said. A spokesman for South Korea's Hyundai Merchant Marine said today:

We are trying hard. But we haven't found any missing North Korean crew so far except the two we earlier rescued at the time of the accident.

Hyundai said its m bulk carrier Pacific Master, which was passing through the area, about 500 miles south-east of Colombo, at the time of the collision, was still searching for the North Koreans. Manpok seemed to have sunk quite quickly as she was loaded with about 4,000 tons of cement, he said, and added that:

The North Korean vessel was believed to be out-dated and lacking in safety equipment ... Our rescue team has not seen any life jackets floating around or any other safety equipment.

Hyundai Duke, which saved two of the 39 North Koreans on board Manpok, was expected in Colombo late today for repairs. Hyundai earlier said the North Korean vessel crossed the Hyundai container vessel's path. The spokesman said:

The accident will be investigated in accordance with international laws and convention.

A spokesman at South Korea's foreign ministry said the two North Korean survivors would be handed over to the North Korean embassy in India or to a North Korean vessel harbouring in Colombo.

5 April 1999 - Two North Korean survivors from mv Manpok, in collision with m container vessel Hyundai Duke east of Sri Lanka on 31 March, were handed over to diplomats from their country today, officials said. Rescuers have so far found only two empty life-rafts from the Manpok, prompting Sri Lankan officials to believe that the other 37 crew from the North Korean vessel were killed following the collision. The two survivors were on duty on the bridge at the time. The remaining crewmen were believed trapped inside their cabins and the engine-room when the vessel sank.

7 April 1999 - Following received from Fairplay, dated Apr 6: Reported that Sri Lankan port state control authorities had detained m container vessel Hyundai Duke. A Merchant Shipping department official said:

We have detained the vessel ... The ship is not seaworthy. It has suffered some damage to the hull and one anchor is missing.

However, it was subsequently reported that the vessel has completed temporary repairs at Colombo and is expected to sail later today. Ariyaseela Wickremanayake, head of Master Divers, which repaired the vessel, said:

The bulbous bow and forecastle were badly damaged.

The vessel had taken in some water because of the damage below the waterline, which was patched up while alongside at Queen Elizabeth Quay container terminal. Officials at Colombo Radio said no more survivors from mv Manpok had been found. An official said:

The vessel sank too quickly to even send a distress signal.

29 April 1999 - Hong Kong

Mv Feliz Trader (5,142gt, built 1975), with 21 crew on board, is reported sinking in lat. 19 47.9N, long. 113 38.09E. Radio contact with the vessel was then lost. Another vessel is about 30 miles away and is proceeding to the area.

30 April 1999 - Mv Feliz Trader, with 21 crew on board, believed sank in lat. 19 47.9N, long. 113 38.09E. Two merchant vessels on scene. Eighteen crew sighted in one dinghy, however, having trouble rescuing them due to rough sea conditions. Other three crew still missing.

1 May 1999 - A total of 18 crew, earlier reported sighted in a dinghy, from sunken mv Feliz Trader are still missing. One vessel still searching and aircraft tasked to search this morning.

3 May 1999 - Three crew of mv Feliz Trader were found safe on 30 April, in one of the two lifeboats. On 2 May, five further crew were found alive in the second lifeboat, but one died later. The search for the remaining 13 crew has been called off. Bodies were spotted in the area of the lifeboats.

Mv Feliz Trader: At 01.28, 30 April, US coastguard informed us of the Inmarsat C distress alert from Feliz Trader. The first daylight search by fixed-wing aircraft confirmed the vessel had sunk and located a life-raft. Three crew from the raft were rescued by m bulk carrier Mathilde Oldendorff. The second sortie in the afternoon found a second life-raft, but, due to very rough weather, the air search and sea rescue was abandoned. On 1 May, a fixed-wing aircraft, during the morning search, was diverted to the successful rescue of seven crew of Hong Kong fishing vessel M63913A. During the afternoon, two fixed-wing aircraft conducted a further search and found two life-rafts. The first one confirmed empty and, due to darkness, unable to confirm the second one. The following surface search failed to locate the raft in the night. The first-light air search on 2 May did not find any survivors, but the second search located a raft with survivors at 11.02 and the fixed-wing aircraft tasked m bulk carrier Pacific Challenger to their help. Five crew, including one unconscious, were picked up. The unconscious member died later. Among the four remaining, two recovered quickly and two remain seriously ill. At 14.04, 2 May, the master was advised to return to Hong Kong to unload the patient. A helicopter met the vessel at 20.00 and airlifted the two Myanmar crew to Eastern hospital at 01.10, 3 May. Pacific Challenger resumed her voyage to Manila with two healthy crew and one corpse. A total of 13 crew, 12 Myanmar and one Filipino, remain missing. As crew in both life-rafts were all rescued and any other crew in water had no chance of survival after three days, the search and rescue was closed.

4 May 1999 - Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA

Investigators are focusing on whether a faulty drive-shaft seal and a large canopy combined to help drag 13 people to their deaths on board fast-sinking World War II-vintage amphibious vessel Miss Majestic (5gt). The vessel had been in the repair shop just two days before she sank to the bottom of Lake Hamilton on Saturday (1 May), drowning 13 of her 21 passengers, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Sunday. NTSB member John A. Hammerschmidt said investigators want to know whether the repairs actually were made by company mechanics and, if so, in what manner. That determination would have to wait until the vessel can be raised from beneath 51ft of cloudy water. The owner's insurance company wants to photograph her and the US coastguard wants to approve the salvage plan to make sure no evidence is damaged, said Robert Bowen of the coastguard's Marine Safety Office at Memphis, Tennessee. Officials said the "duck", called such because it can travel on both land and water, sank in a matter of seconds as passengers scrambled for life preservers, which were not required to be worn on the vessel. Some victims, especially those near the centre of the vessel, may have been prevented from swimming free by an overhead canopy. Hammerschmidt, whose team of investigators interviewed survivors Sunday, said:

The canopy of the vessel appears to be a significant factor in escaping the vessel.

Most of the victims were found inside the vessel, which was resting on the lake's bottom, said Garland County Sheriff Larry Selig. Among those questioned Sunday was driver Elizabeth Helmbrecht, 56, who had taken the vessel in for repairs Thursday after a bilge pump turned on automatically during a cruise, Hammerschmidt said. The driver said there was a hole in a rubber seal around a drive shaft, allowing water into the vessel, he said. Saturday was the first time the vessel had been out since, and the driver was about seven minutes from shore when she realised the vessel was taking on water, according to Hammerschmidt. She told investigators she tried to turn on the bilge pump, grab a radio, and turn back to shore, but the vessel sank less than a minute after she became aware of the problem, Hammerschmidt said. Miss Majestic is one of several amphibious vehicles that have rolled and floated through Hot Springs for 40 years without any previous fatalities. The coastguard asked local companies that operate the vehicles to suspend operations until the sunken vessel can be inspected. Chief Petty Officer Buddy Dye said there have been discussions in his agency about shutting down operations of duck boats nationwide until officials can find out what happened at Lake Hamilton.

5 May 1999 - Investigations continue in Hot Springs into the cause of the accident involving amphibious vessel Miss Majestic that took the lives of 13 people on 1 May. The recovery of the vessel could begin as early as today but is expected to take from two to three days. Federal inspectors will continue their investigation by means of videotape of the underwater wreckage and continue with a hands-on examination as soon as the craft is raised.

7 May 1999 - Investigators recommended using a floating crane to lift amphibious vessel Miss Majestic from the bottom of Lake Hamilton, although such an approach would add days to the salvage of the vessel, which sank last Saturday (1 May), killing 13 people.

9 May 1999 - A salvage team from the US Navy raised an amphibious vessel Miss Majestic from the bottom of a lake today to help investigators try to determine why the craft sank so suddenly, killing 13 people. A crane lifted the amphibious craft from where she had rested on the bottom of Lake Hamilton, 50 to 60ft below. A formal marine board inquiry begins tomorrow, according to coastguard spokeswoman Allison van Hagen. Last week, a diver with a video camera surveyed the wreckage but no cause for the sinking could be determined from the images. Investigators are focusing on the possible failure of seals and fittings on the craft and also want to determine whether the craft's main pump was activated when she began to fill with water. The driver of the craft, Elizabeth Helmbrecht, and Land and Lake Tours Inc., which operated it, were named as defendants Friday in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed in federal court by the husband and son of one of the 13 victims, Lana Jo Berry, 42, of Dyersburg, Tennessee. Van Hagen said the craft would be taken to a National Guard armoury for a more complete inspection.

8 May 1999 - Barisal, Bangladesh

At least 300 people were missing after ferry Dwipkanya sank in the Meghna River in southern Bangladesh today, officials said. They said the ferry, carrying some 400 passengers, went down in a whirlpool during a storm near Lakhsmipur, 175km from Dhaka. A government official said:

We don't have any idea about how many people were drowned or dead. We have just sent a rescue team.

Survivor Bazlur Rahman said:

The ferry tilted on one side and sank in midstream immediately after being caught in a tropical storm at 11.00 hours, 05.00, UTC.

He said about 100 passengers swam ashore, and added:

The ferry was overcrowded and was running at speed in heavy current

Kazi Wahiduzzaman, owner of the ferry and proprietor of Sripor Transport Company at Barisal, said the Dwipkanya was capable of carrying 250 people. He did not elaborate.

9 May 1999 - Poor weather conditions have hampered attempts to find as many as 300 people missing after ferry Dwipkanya sank in a tropical storm in southern Bangladesh, officials said today. The ferry, believed to have been carrying about 400 passengers, went down yesterday in a whirlpool in the Meghna River near Lakhsmipur, 175km from Dhaka. About 100 passengers swam ashore but others remained unaccounted for, officials in the coastal town of Barisal said. However, state-run Bangladesh Betar (radio) and Bangladesh television said ten people were missing after about 100 had swum to safety. Abdul Huq, deputy director of Inland Water Transport Authority, said:

Rescue teams have not been able to reach the spot while salvage vessel Hamza was also held back by a rain-storm last night ... Hamza will start from Barisal soon as weather has improved this morning but it will take at least until 14.00 hours to reach the accident spot by covering a 65-mile distance.

Survivor Bazlur Rahman said:

The ferry was over-crowded and was running at speed in heavy current ... The ferry tilted on one side and sank in mid-stream immediately after being caught in a tropical storm at 11.00 hours.

10 May 1999 - Bangladesh today resumed efforts to find up to 100 passengers missing since Saturday and salve sunken ferry Dwipkanya after an overnight recess, officials said. Rescuers yesterday found 11 dead bodies floating in the Meghna river near Lakhsmipur, they said. One official at Lakhsmipur said:

Salvage vessel Hamza located the ferry some 200 feet downstream from where she sank ... Efforts to bring the ferry up and see if any dead bodies were stuck in it started this morning. Hamza suspended her operations last night due to bad weather conditions and darkness.

The officials said hopes for finding anyone alive had almost faded away. State-run Bangladesh television said last night that some 100 people were missing.

11 May 1999 - A total of 35 bodies have been found from ferry Dwipkanya that sank three days ago and was salvaged today, officials said. They said around 100 other people missing since Saturday (8 May) were believed to have drowned as well. The ferry was salvaged after two days of efforts, which were interrupted by bad weather and strong river currents.

10 May 1999 - Hong Kong area

A total of 12 mainland crewmen were still missing after their fishing vessel sank off Waglan Island in rough seas. A total of 14 of the crew of 26 were rescued by vessels nearby. All of the crewmen were from Hainan province. The accident took place at 07.05 yesterday. The 120ft vessel was mainland-registered with a displacement of 30t. Government Flying Services sent out four aircraft to search for survivors. Their operation was suspended at 18.22 without finding any of the missing crew members. A government spokesman could not say if the search operation would continue today. Guangdong authorities also sent a vessel to assist in the search. The crewmen who were picked up were all brought to Hong Kong. Only one of them required medical attention. He was discharged after receiving treatment at the Queen Mary Hospital. The other survivors were taken to Western Quarantine and Immigration, Anchorage. They will be sent back to Hainan after immigration formalities.

2 June 1999 - Ahmedabad, India

The bodies of 278 Indian fishermen, missing since a severe cyclone raged across the Arabian sea two weeks ago, have been found near the western coast of India, officials said today. The high tide on Sunday night brought more bodies to the coast along the Kutch district, Vijaysinh Parmar, relief commissioner of the western state of Gujarat, said. A team of state government officials and fishermen has left for Karachi to search for Indian fishermen who might have drifted towards Pakistan. Rescuers had found 92 bodies by 27 May, following the severe cyclone that hit the Pakistani coast. Indian authorities said last week that about 300 fishermen had been missing since the cyclone.

16 June 1999 - Colombo, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is on alert for 11 missing Ukrainian crew members of a St Vincent-registered cargo vessel that sank off the north-eastern seas of the Indian Ocean island, navy officials said today. Lieutenant Commander Sarath Mohotty said:

We are watching for 11 missing crew of mv Number One (4,217gt, built 1975) which is said to have gone down some 200 miles off (eastern) Trincomalee around 14 June.

Mohotty said seven Ukrainian crew of the Number One had been reported rescued early on 14 June by mv Sun Ocean, which was sailing to Myanmar, but 11 other crew were missing and feared dead. Mohotty said:

We have not heard from the sunken vessel's agents so far because the vessel seems to have gone down in seas which are not within our purview ... But there is a chance that the crew may have drifted toward Sri Lanka so we are on standby.

Officials at Colombo Radio said the 100m long vessel was carrying general cargo from Malaysia to India when it sank. It was not immediately known why it sank.

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