Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sweden Pays Tribute To Estonia Disaster Victims

Via The Local:

Two decades on from the catastrophic sinking of the MS Estonia, which claimed the lives of 501 Swedes, the nation has paid tribute to the victims amid calls for a fresh inquiry into the tragedy.

On the morning of September 28th 1994 the Swedish public awoke to horrifying images from the Baltic sea of people gripping for life in the icy cold water.

In the early hours of the morning the cruise ferry MS Estonia had sank, with the loss of 852 lives.

Only 137 people managed to survive.

The disaster unfolded over the course of an hour after strong waves ripped off the 54 ton bow visor at the front of the ship.

Water flooded into the car decks and capsized the vessel, forcing a scramble for life as panic ensued for the nearly 1000 people onboard.

Passengers were aware something was not right just after the stroke of midnight when they heard a loud bang.

The noise, which some described as sounding like an explosion, would later form the basis of several conspiracy theories.

"A big wave struck which forced everything in the bar to fall down and be crushed. We said as a joke that it was like Titanic and that they would soon start offering free champagne and begin playing music on the decks", Swedish survivor Kent Härstedt said about the initial impact, in a recent documentary about the tragedy for the Discovery channel.

The bow visor was later found to have been poorly welded and not properly maintained.

To make matters worse the bridge were unable to see the bow so they didn't react until it was too late. Alarms were not sounded until five minutes after the ship began listing.

Human error was also to blame as the ship had been traveling too fast in order to make up time. MS Estonia was an hour behind schedule and was due to arrive in Stockholm the following day after setting sail from Tallinn.

Officers were later criticized in an official report for panicking and sending out muddled radio messages to nearby vessels.

By the time help arrived the MS Estonia had sank to the bottom of the sea off the Finnish coast - where it remains to this day.

Those who survived remain haunted by the experience which is deeply ingrained on the Swedish psyche.

Survivors recalled how some passengers, inside the ship, did not attempt to save their lives and stood motionless, paralyzed by shock, as hundreds tried to get onto the outer decks.

Out on decks there was another obstacle to survival - looters.

Numerous witnesses reported that they had their personal items, like watches and goldchains, stolen by thieves.

Some even had their lifejackets taken off them.

Water flowed into the MS Estonia at the rate of 20 tons a second. Within 40 minutes it had sank.

Only 137 people managed to survive.

A staggering 97 percent of female passengers perished.

Nobody under the age of 12 made it out alive.

A total of 94 bodies were recovered.

It's estimated that 650 people remain buried inside the MS Estonia - an issue which continues to evoke strong feelings from affected families.

On Sunday, exactly 20 years since the disaster, King Carl Gustav layed a wreath at the Estonia monument in Stockholm.

Similar events have taken place across the country to mark the anniversary.

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