Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Modern Day Titanic

[I know this is no longer "breaking news" but I wanted to make a blog post about it since part of the purpose of my blog is to keep a record of current events.]

I've thought a lot about the Titanic over the years, and I didn't think there'd ever be another catastrophe  that could even come close to rivaling "Titanic" proportions since technology has come such a long way in the past 100 years and things like that just don't seem to happen anymore. I guess this is just another reason why you should "never say never."

I'm not one for superstitions, but last Friday (Friday the 13th) was a doozy for the 4200 passengers aboard the Costa Concordia cruise ship. At 9:30 (just 2½ hours after leaving the port of Civitavecchia) the Costa Concordia hit submerged rocks that tore through the hull as it sailed past the island of Giglio off the coast of Tuscany. As the ship took on water the captain tried to turn it towards the island's port, but the ship started to sink and list to the side. Apparently the Captain made an "unapproved and unauthorized" deviation in course, sailing too close to the island to show off the ship to locals. (At least this is what I've gathered from the reading I've done about online about the sinking of the Costa Concordia.)

"Somehow" Francesco Schettino, the Captain of the Costa Concordia ended up safely in a lifeboat, instead of going down with his ship. Schettino said he had no intention of escaping. He said, "I was helping some passengers put the lifeboat to sea. At a certain point the mechanism for lowering it, blocked. We had to force it. Suddenly the system unblocked itself and I tripped and I found myself inside the lifeboat with a number of other passengers." I don't know about you, but something sure sounds fishy!

Fortunately there's a transcript of the exchange that took place between the Coast Guard official and Schettino, and he sure sounds like a real piece of work! The Coast Guard official repeatedly told Schettino to get back on the ship to oversee the rescue efforts, but Schettino kept making excuses. This was my favorite line, "Schettino, you may have saved yourself from the sea, but I'm going to make you pay, I'm going to make your life miserable. Get the (bleep) on board!" Schettino has since been arrested on charges of manslaughter. (Not to mention the half billion dollar cost of the cruise ship that he's culpable for!)

Fortunately, most of the 4200 passengers survived the ordeal, but as of right now the death toll stands at 11 (with 24 people still missing, including a retired couple from Minnesota). All things considered, there could've been a much higher loss of life, so I'm glad that the majority of the passengers survived. Still, it's extremely sad for those 11 people (and the 24 missing passengers who are likely dead).

A picture says 1000 words, so I'll illustrate this post with these pictures since they show just what a mess things were. They really put things into context, and it's amazing to see just how big a ship the Costa Concordia was.
Here's a picture of the giant hole in the ship's hull, as well as Captian Francisco Schettino getting arrested.


Matthew Smith said...

I'm not sure the Concordia sinking can be compared to the Titanic: the Concordia was in warm, Mediterranean waters and appears to have sank due to the captain's error. As I understand it, the number of lives lost has been much fewer. It struck a big chord with me as a disabled friend went on a cruise in the same region early last year. She and her care assistant had a great time, and I'm so glad the captain wasn't an ass like Schettino.

I read the exchange between Schettino and the coastguard captain, in which Schettino was ordered to go back on board to search for any survivors (at great risk to his own life, and it reminded me of an incident in the UK a few years ago, where a woman had been injured by her violent husband, who then shot himself dead. The woman told this over the phone to the police who were outside, but the police refused to come in as their superior imagined that the woman was lying, and that the husband was still alive and waiting to shoot the cops. The woman bled to death. The police faced no sanction. I was immediately shocked at the callous cowardice of those policemen (who, by contrast, almost always get away with shooting or choking to death ordinary people). What a contrast with what is expected of captains of ships, to risk their lives for their passengers, even when not in the armed forces.

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