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Author Topic: Princess Ashika goes down in Tonga  (Read 2489 times)

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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LJRead

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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.
Lawrence J. Read
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PhilJ

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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:
Lawrence J. Read
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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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