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Author Topic: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga  (Read 2498 times)

LJRead

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Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« on: August 05, 2009, 05:29:29 PM »
About two months ago we finally got a new inter-island ferry and cargo boat in the form of the Princess Ashika, which had been operating in Fiji's waters and was brought over to Tonga to replace our M.V. Olovaha which had been deteriorating for some time and going slower and slower.  This morning we learned that the Princess Ashika began to sink yesterday not too far out of Nuku'lofa (main city of Tonga) on its way to Vava'u.  Among other things it carried a small box of Malia's clothes from the U.S.  Fifty or so passengers were aboard and most were rescued by another ferry operating in the area.  Some others were picked up by the Tonga Naval vessel which I reported on some weeks ago, so we are thankful that possibly all are safe and now await further news.

It is a major loss for Vava'u because of our dependence on it for almost all store goods.
So back to the old ways when there were no stores!
Lawrence J. Read
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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2009, 05:33:19 PM »
Sorry to hear the about bad news, Br. Larry!
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geoffbaker

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2009, 05:33:36 PM »
Sorry to hear it LJ and glad that everybody was rescued OK. Guess you will have to live on local supplies again for a while!

I should add that the title of this thread could lead to some confusion among the more pruriently minded (me, I mean)....:)

PhilJ

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2009, 07:16:46 PM »
Yes Larry, what a loss. Sorry to hear it.

Ok, now we know Geoff. ps you weren't the only one.

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2009, 07:19:17 PM »
I should add that the title of this thread could lead to some confusion among the more pruriently minded (me, I mean)....:)


LOL! I hate to admit it, but that was my first thought.  ;D

LJ, just out of curiosity, are you from the U.S.? Why did you move to Tonga?
I must retreat to my place of Zen and meditate on this.

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2009, 08:10:55 PM »
Yes, very sorry to hear that LJ.
It's all on the news here also.
Apparently NZ Maritine got the Mayday last night and diverted 3 boats to the area and asked the Navy vessel to assist.
Also have an Orion overhead.

What a lot of people don't realize is how closely the Pacfic Islands need to work together when things go wrong. NZ is tasked with all SAR for this part of the Pacfic, covers a huge area including Tonga.

As with most SAR operations it is usually the "vessels of opportunity" that are sent to do the job, the locals have rescued quite a few people already but sadly it appears many may still be missing.
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LJRead

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Re: Ferry M.V. Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2009, 09:48:36 PM »
Thanks all, and thanks Goeff for allowing me to correct the title of this thread.  Just returned from town and latest is that there were about 50 passengers and 30 crew and that only 44 have so far been rescued. Conditions at sea are very rough here now as we have had strong winds with high seas.  Everyone in town is very saddened by this as everyone in Tonga is somehow close either as relatives or friends, so a loss such as this hits hard.  There is another privately run ferry (the M.V. Pulupaki) which will allow most services here to continue but some things have been lost.  My wife's small two foot square box went on the Pulupaki so we haven't suffered in that way, and the mail for the island was also put on the Pulupaki.

This is of course a very maritime nation and the territory down here is huge when the sea is considered, dwarfing any other part of the world. The land area is quite small (160 + islands in the Tonga group) but the sea is all encompassing. New Zealand is especially good in monitoring things and helping out, but then New Zealanders are just that way, very helpful people.

To answer Slider's question - I have spent half my life in the South Pacific, and my wife, Malia, is a Tongan. We left the U.S. finally fifteen years ago to sort of start afresh down here, with never a regret even though I sometimes miss the homeland very much.    You can check out my website to see where we live http://www.bayviewtonga.com.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2009, 09:52:02 PM by LJRead »
Lawrence J. Read
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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2009, 10:44:38 PM »
  Also sorry to hear of your loss.  Any plans to replace your ferry?  Checked out your web site.  I can see why you moved there..looks very relaxing.  Will.
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geoffbaker

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2009, 10:48:02 PM »
Sorry to hear there are still some missing and hope they all get back safe...

On a different tack - if you ever need help with your website, Larry, just ask... I'd be happy to help!

LJRead

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2009, 11:50:05 PM »
Thanks for the offer, Goeff.   I did my present website after I got tired of my original professionally produced one.  Too many bells and whistles to it.  I have a feeling we will be doing a lot of upgrading in the next years, especially going with more alternative energy on site as my pocket book allows.  So yes, I may just call on you to help out if you wouldn't mind.

BTW when I posted the link to our site this morning I then checked on the website and find that somehow the main photo, taken from the top of Mt. Talau across the way got deleted, so tonight maybe I can replace it.

We will soon be getting a complete radio report of the sinking so I will be posting when I find out more facts.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2009, 11:56:24 PM by LJRead »
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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2009, 12:04:18 AM »
Yeah, the report just came through with 53 rescued and 27 still missing.  The boat itself sank to the bottom.
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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2009, 04:24:35 AM »
Dang, that's rough. Sorry to hear it.

I must retreat to my place of Zen and meditate on this.

geoffbaker

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2009, 02:46:58 PM »
LJ, is there a Tongan airport or airstrip for emergencies?

Is there anything any of us forum members might be able to do to help?

Any kind of emergency supplies needed?

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2009, 03:43:25 PM »
I hope everybody gets picked up, and I pray for the families of those lost...
 :'(
 :'(
 :'(

 :)
I say we get a "Tonga Trip" together for sometime in the future like 1-2 years from now so all we all have time to save up for it.  then we go fill up the place with Bulleteers for a week, how cool would that be, except we would all have to take turns riding LJ's bullet around. (Ha! Ha! Just kidding)...

or we could save even more money and buy a used one or two and have em shipped there for us all to use. This is alot of teamwork but imagine a vacation in Tonga with a chance to ride an enfeld around for a couple hours... and then LJ could use em or rent em to visitors... ( I am a crazy dreamer I know)

Heck I might just move there myself, LJ do you need any help? (half joking)

I just saw the website and man does it look NICE down there!

Peace to all of ya down ther and prayers to all those who lost loved ones.

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geoffbaker

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2009, 05:24:48 PM »
sounds like a plan, Frank!

LJRead

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2009, 06:59:23 PM »
As an update to the shipwreck, it happened after mid-night (night before last) with strong winds apparently turning the vessel sideways to the seas.  The captain was trying to get the passengers to move to the center of the in order to balance their weight, but it apparently quickly took on water and began to sink.  Fortunately there was a full moon and the M.V Pulupaki able to reach them within two hours, or they all might have drowned. Some were able to take to the life boats, some jumped overboard wearing life jackets, some without anything. in the way of flotation. An emergency beacon was activated and, I guess, quickly responded to by New Zealand.  

Some confusion over who survived and who didn't, so families are still awaiting word. Also, apparently it isn't really known how many were aboard.  Now estimated to be around 96 with 55 surviving and possibly 41 missing - a heavy toll. My wife's aunt in Ha'apai has a guest house and was expecting three foreign tourists to come there on the Princess Ashika, but has since learned that one died and two others are missing.  Most passengers and crew would have been Tongans, however, though one Chinese crew member is missing.

Thanks for the offer to help but I'm sure everything is taken care of.  There are air fields on all the major islands (maybe four airfields in all).  

The radios have gone over to playing hymns and classical music out of respect and I don't know how long this will continue, but when the King died a couple years ago, it continued for over a month.  It is sort of the Tongan version of flying the flag at half mast, though that is done as well.  Radio is very important here, not much TV yet.

The sea is, of course, all around us here and certainly takes its toll from time to time.  Just in my area has been three drownings including my wife's cousin a couple weeks ago, a child and his father down near the bridge near us, and a Peace Corp worker lost to a shark about two years ago just up the coast a ways.  I suppose it is something to be expected but always a shock when it inevitably happens.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2009, 07:10:21 PM by LJRead »
Lawrence J. Read
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LJRead

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2009, 01:59:30 AM »
UPDATE

Not looking good as it seems there were far more people aboard than first thought.  That is a problem here as people tend to crowd aboard at the last minute and control of them is lax.  So the toll seems to be approaching 60 with 53 saved, a grim thing for a nation of only 100K people. 

So what initially was thought to be a total of about 80 aboard is now at 117, and I'm wondering if all that added weight could have been a factor, with people rushing to one side of the vessel and causing increased instability.  It seems that the greatest toll was among the women and children and I'm not sure why that was.  So far we know that one victim was a police officer from Vava'u.

I guess it is reaching the news in the U.S. because we have had an email from there asking bout it.
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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2009, 03:45:06 AM »
That's just terrible and I'm sorry to hear about the loss of so many lives.   I keep thinking about what you said about radio being more common with TV not so well established.  Maybe that's not such a bad thing.  I think I may even like it better that way once I got used to it. 
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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #18 on: August 07, 2009, 05:51:10 AM »
Not having TV is great.  They have it down on the main island, but not up here

 But the impact of this disaster is only gradually making itself felt with reports filtering in.  A police officer and the Leimatua village officer didn't make it and those who did said they were waiting too long helping others get off. No women and children made it because of the swiftness of the capsize and sinking.   They were all inside and could be seen in the vessel's windows as it went down.  A family of four from Talihau, a lady from Longomapu (all small villages here on our island).  The coldness of the water was also a major factor - I suppose hypothermia set in and all that.

It will take time to get past this one.
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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #19 on: August 07, 2009, 02:45:10 PM »
Coldness of the water? A land lubber I be, I thought of the South Pacific as always warm.

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #20 on: August 07, 2009, 03:54:50 PM »
Very sad, LJ...

our thoughts are with you...

LJRead

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #21 on: August 07, 2009, 06:49:21 PM »
Phil, the open ocean waters are quite cold, around 60 degrees, so if one is in the water any length of time, hypothermis will set in. 

This isn't a personal loss for me as I was only acquainted with some of those aboard and none were close friends or family, but for Tongans it is quite different as I believe this may be one of the most closely knit societies in the world, a mental closeness that those of us outside can barely understand.  The socieyt moves along with a sort of aural tradition built in so that things which occurred many years ago will be remembered as though they occurred last week.  One of my wife's uncles was once telling me a story and it took me a while to realize that it took place two hundred years before even though, in the telling, he seemed to be mentally tuned into the middle of it all.  An odd feeling for me at the time.  My wife now tells me stories of people who were lost on a sinking in Ha'apai waters that occurred thirty years ago, but I'm sure carefully retained within the societal memory bank.

As to the wreck, the toll now stands at 62 lost, mostly people who had taken refuge from the rough weather inside and were simply unable to make it out.  Most of the male survivors were sleeping and talking out on deck and the vessel apparently flipped and sank so fast there was little hope.  One survivor mentions hearing the shifting of cargo below shortly before the capsize.  Nearly all of the dead are still on the ship, 100 feet down on the bottom and a New Zealand naval dive team is due to come up and bring up the bodies, so that at least will be a great comfort to those left as they will be able to properly bury and mourn for those lost.  There is a lot of news about it contained in the Matangi Tonga news which you can google if interested.  There are survivors comments and such on what is Tonga's main internet news site.
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LJRead

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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #22 on: August 07, 2009, 06:54:25 PM »
Photo of M.V Princess Ashika downloaded from Matangi Tonga website:
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Re: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga
« Reply #23 on: August 08, 2009, 07:35:52 AM »
I hope no relatives of yours. This is not good news, I'm sorry LJ.

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