Sunk Ferry Top-heavy?
Sad news from the Red Sea today, where a fully-loaded ferry sank overnight on a trip from Saudi Arabia to Egypt; of the ~1400 passengers and crew, they've reportedly rescued about 100 survivors so far. The ferry, the M/V Al Salam Boccaccio 98, was originally built in Italy in 1970, and started working in Egypt in 1998. (This article has the best background I've seen, along with reports of other problems the same company has faced.) HMS Bulwark, a Royal Navy Albion-class amphibious assault ship, is headed for the area, but likely won't arrive until late tomorrow.
The ferry looks quite top heavy; I'm pretty sure it's been modified to add some upper decks. Here's a picture of the ferry in her most recent configuration:
And, from this web site (not in English), is what I think is a picture of the ship as originally laid down:
With the additional weight high in the ship, this tends to move the ship's center of gravity upwards. In dweeby naval architecture terms, if a ship's metacenter ends up below the center of gravity in a given configuration, the ship isn't stable. With reports of storms in the area, it's possible the ship took a roll, and kept on going. Since there are conflicting reports of a distress signal being sent out, though, we can't tell yet if the ship capsized or sank "normally". We'll have to wait to hear from survivors to see what happened.
Staying at PD...
Update 0945 03 Feb: I'm expecting someone to blame an American, Brit, or Israeli sub for the sinking pretty soon. This DU thread could be where it starts...
Update 1650 03 Feb: As of nightfall in the Red Sea, it looks like about 300 people had been rescued from the sea. It also appears that HMS Bulwark was turned around, since she wouldn't be needed.
Update 0216 04 Feb: This report says that the ferry capsized, but also has reports from some survivors that they smelled smoke, as if from an electrical fire. Looks like we'll have to wait a little longer to find out what happened...
Update 0902 04 Feb: This sounds almost too sensational to believe:
"Survivors of the Red Sea ferry disaster said on Saturday the Egyptian captain had fled his burning ship by lifeboat and abandoned them to their fate, as hopes faded of finding some 800 missing people.
"Some passengers, plucked alive from the sea or from boats after the ferry caught fire and sank early on Friday, said crew members had told them not to worry about the blaze below deck and even ordered them to take off lifejackets.
"Survivors said a fire broke out below deck shortly after the 35-year-old vessel left the Saudi port of Duba on Thursday evening with 1,272 passengers and a crew of about 100.
"The ship began to list but the crew continued to sail out into the Red Sea rather than turn back to the Saudi port, they told reporters in the Egyptian port of Safaga, where the ferry should have landed early on Friday.
"Egyptian survivor Shahata Ali said the passengers had told the captain about the fire but he told them not to worry.
"We were wearing lifejackets but they told us there was nothing wrong, told us to take them off and they took away the lifejackets. Then the boat started to sink and the captain took a boat and left," he added, speaking to Reuters Television.
"The captain was the first to leave and we were surprised to see the boat sinking," added Khaled Hassan, another survivor.
"Other survivors also reported that the crew had played down the gravity of the situation and withheld lifejackets.
"There was a fire but the crew stopped the people from putting on lifejackets so that it wouldn't cause a panic," said Abdel Raouf Abdel Nabi, one of the survivors.
"There was a blaze down below. The crew said 'Don't worry, we will put it out.' When things got really bad the crew just went off in the lifeboats and left us on board," said Nader Galal Abdel Shafi, another arrival on the same rescue boat."
I'd be hard-pressed to believe that a Captain would abandon his ship like that before the passengers were taken care of. If it is true, it's just more evidence that Arab civilization has behavioral norms so far from Western (and Eastern) standards that it's no surprise we have a hard time communicating with each other...