Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tragedy at sea for Tongans

from w
Our hearts go out to the bereaved and anxious relatives after the sinking of a ferry in Tongan waters. It is an awful tragedy and we wonder why such things happen. Perhaps the ferry was not really seaworthy and the weather was not calm. Our prayers are with the Tongan people at this time. But why did the King of Tonga go on a holiday to Scotland even after hearing of the tragedy?

From Fiji village:
Tonga still on state of shock
Publish date/time: 07/08/2009 [13:05]
It is the worst ferry disaster ever in the Pacific region and people of Tonga are still in a state of shock as rescuers desperately search for the people still missing in the Tongan waters after the MV Princess Ashika sank late Wednesday night. The worry and the sad news continue to unfold from the island kingdom today.

The number of people who may have died in the Tongan ferry tragedy has nearly doubled, with two confirmed dead, and 62 people now unaccounted for.

The Commander of Tonga's Police Force Chris Kelly said they have now revised the manifest list and think that 117 people were onboard when the Princess Ashika sank. Kelly said he cannot explain why only men have been rescued but there may have been a shift change happening, which would account for all the crew being on deck.

He said of those missing, 23 are men, four of them crew members, 21 are women, and 7 are children, with the rest yet to be identified...

Fifita (from radio Tonga) told us that the ship sank within minutes and the women and children were trapped inside.

There is an audio file attached to this story. Please login to listen. Fifita said the MV Princess Ashika was declared seaworthy but concerns are being raised that the vessel was only built and used for inland waters, not the open seas.

Some survivors have said that two big waves hit the ship which resulted in the sinking.
Meanwhile, the Tongan National Centre for Women and Children's Ofa GuttenbeilLikiliki said people are desperate for information. She said it is common knowledge that the Princess Ashika, which was brought to replace another ferry, was far from seaworthy. She said the vessel was an accident waiting to happen.

A survivor of Tonga's ferry disaster said the vessel rolled so quickly in rough seas that women and children sleeping below decks had no chance to escape.

According to the Operations Officer for the Tongan Navy Daniel Tuita, the crewman said the captain of the Princess Ashika had warned of rough seas approaching with less than a minute's notice. He said a very short minute after the captain warned them, they tried to yell out to the people inside but the accident happened so suddenly. All the women and children were inside, sleeping and taking refuge from the rough seas while the men were outside smoking and lying on the deck. Tuita quoted the crewman as saying that when the accident happened, unfortunately those who were safe inside were the first to go down.

One of the survivors Siaosi Lavaka, whose mother is among the missing, said he woke to find the ferry rocking violently and waves breaking over the lower deck. He said the rocking apparently moved cargo to one side of the ferry, unbalancing it and turning it over.
(later - Sunday.) It now seems that there are overy ninety people missing, after counting names on the manifest etc. That is really huge. Is the Tongan King over in Scotland? Surely he should come home immediately to show he cares about all these bereaved families suffering in Tonga.

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