Bad weather and bad choices have been deemed the causes of last November's maritime tragedy, which killed 280 passengers aboard a ferry. A special investigative team has published its findings according to officials from the Safe Production Department under the State Economic and Trade Commission (SETC) in China. Those directly responsible for the mishap will be severely punished, the team said.
All but 20 of the ferry's 302 passengers were confirmed killed or still missing when the Dashun ferry caught fire and capsized on November 24 en route from Yantai in Shandong Province to Dalian in Liaoning Province. Shan Chunchang, who chaired the department, said that they came to the conclusion that the tragedy was caused by a number of reasons, but that human error topped the list - the ship was overloaded with goods, and the crew failed to pack them properly. When a fire broke out in the cabin, the crew misjudged the situation and put too much water into the cabin in the hope of extinguishing the fire, a move that accelerated the ship's sinking. The investigative team also admitted that the bad weather conditions at sea slowed the rescue efforts. Shan indicated that the owner of the Dashun ferry - the Yanda Group - had a major responsibility for the tragedy.
Since 1997, three ships from the Yanda Group have sunk in the Bohai Sea, while the group failed to adopt effective measures to enhance their safety, Shan said. Figures from the Ministry of Communications show that 769 passengers died in ship or boat accidents in 1999, a 26.9 per cent increase from 1998.
Full article: By Guo Aibing, China Daily (03/20/2000).