Sunday, March 30, 2014

Top 5 Catastrophic Shipwrecks

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Posted : June 2011
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5. RMS Titanic
Death Toll: 1,517
RMS Titanic was an Olympic-class passenger liner owned by the White Star Line and built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. On the night of 14 April 1912, during her maiden voyage, Titanic struck an iceberg, and sank two hours and forty minutes later, early on 15 April 1912. At the time of her launching in 1912, she was the largest passenger steamship in the world. The sinking resulted in the deaths of 1,517 people, ranking it as one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history and by far the most infamous. The Titanic used some of the most advanced technology available at the time and was popularly believed to be “unsinkable” – indeed, in a 1910 White Star Line brochure advertising the Titanic; it was claimed that she was “designed to be unsinkable”. It was a great shock to many that despite the advanced technology and experienced crew; the Titanic still sank with a great loss of life. The media frenzy about Titanic’s famous victims, the legends about what happened on board the ship, the resulting changes to maritime law, and the discovery of the wreck in 1985 by a team led by Robert Ballard have made Titanic persistently famous in the years since.

4. Sultana
Death Toll: 1800
The steamboat Sultana was a Mississippi River paddlewheeler destroyed in an explosion on 27 April 1865. This resulted in the greatest maritime disaster in United States history. An estimated 1,800 of the 2,400 passengers were killed when one of the ship’s four boilers exploded and the Sultana sank not far from Memphis, Tennessee. This disaster received somewhat diminished attention as it took place soon after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and during the closing weeks of the Civil War. Most of the new passengers were Union soldiers, chiefly from Ohio and just released from Confederate prison camps such as Cahawba and Andersonville. The US government had contracted with the Sultana to transport these former prisoners of war back to their homes. The cause of the explosion was a leaky and poorly repaired steam boiler. The boiler (or “boilers”) gave way when the steamer was about 7 to 9 miles north of Memphis at 2:00 A.M. in a terrific explosion that sent some of the passengers on deck into the water and destroyed a good portion of the ship. Hot coals scattered by the explosion soon turned the remaining superstructure into an inferno, the glare of which could be seen in Memphis.

3. MV Le Joola
Death Toll: 1,863
MV Le Joola was a Senegalese government-owned ferry that capsized off the coast of Gambia on September 26, 2002. The disaster resulted in the deaths of at least 1,863 people. On September 26, 2002, the ferry Joola set sail from Ziguinchor in the Casamance region on one of its frequent trips between southern Senegal and the country’s capital Dakar. It was about 1:30 p.m. At the time of voyage the ship was designed to carry approximately 580 passengers. In all, almost 2,000 passengers are believed to have been on board. The last call from the ferry staff broadcast to a maritime security center in Dakar was at 10 p.m. and reported good travel conditions. In Titanic-culture style, people were dancing and drinking inside the ship to the sound of a live band playing. At around 11 p.m., the ship sailed into a storm off the coast of Gambia. As a result of the rough seas and wind, the ferry quickly capsized, throwing passengers and cargo into the sea. Detailed reports indicate that this happened in less than five minutes. Only one lifeboat was deployed and was able to transport 25 people. Government rescue teams did not arrive at the scene until the morning following the accident, although local fishermen rescued some survivors from the sea several hours before.

2. Halifax Explosion
Death Toll: 1,950
The Halifax Explosion occurred on Thursday, December 6, 1917, when the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, was devastated by the huge detonation of a French cargo ship, fully loaded with wartime explosives, that had accidentally collided with a Norwegian ship in “The Narrows” section of the Halifax Harbour. Approximately 2,000 people (mostly Canadians) were killed by debris, fires, or collapsed buildings and it is estimated that over 9,000 people were injured. This is still one of the world’s largest man-made, conventional explosions to date. At 8:40 in the morning, Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship that was chartered by the French government to carry munitions, collided with the unloaded Norwegian ship Imo (pronounced E-mo); chartered by the Commission for Relief in Belgium to carry relief supplies. Mont-Blanc caught fire ten minutes after the collision and exploded about twenty-five minutes later (at 9:04:35 AM). All buildings and structures covering nearly two square kilometres along the adjacent shore of the exploded ship were obliterated, including those in the neighbouring communities of Richmond and Dartmouth. The explosion caused a tsunami in the harbour, and a pressure wave of air that snapped trees, bent iron rails, demolished buildings, grounded vessels, and carried fragments of the Mont-Blanc for kilometres. Pictured above is the Imo after the explosion.

1. MV Doña Paz
Death Toll: 4,375
The Doña Paz was a passenger ferry that sank after colliding with the oil tanker Vector on December 20, 1987. The Doña Paz was en route from Catbalogan, on Samar Island, Philippines, to Manila when, while it was in the Tablas Strait, between the islands of Mindoro and Tablas, it collided with a small oil tanker, the Vector, which was carrying 8,800 barrels of petroleum products. The Vector’s cargo ignited and caused a fire that rapidly spread onto the Doña Paz, which sank within minutes. Two of the 13 crew members aboard the Vector survived but all 58 crew of the Doña Paz died. The official death toll on the ferry is 1,565 although some reports claim that the ferry was overcrowded and that the true death toll was at least 4,341. The ships would put the death toll at 4,375 although admitting that only 1,568 were on the manifest (still more than the licensed maximum of 1,518). The 21 (or 24) survivors from the ferry had to swim, as there was no time to launch lifeboats. An inquiry later revealed that the crew of the Vector was under-qualified and that the boat’s license had expired. It is the worst ferry disaster and the worst peacetime maritime disaster in history.

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