Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tragedy Struck South Korea, as Ship Sinks Claiming Young Lives.

Our prayers go to the bereaved parents and loved ones of the victims—mostly high school students—of a tragic sinking of a vessel in South Korea, while sailing off to a vacation island.  News say one hundred seventy-nine have so far been rescued, while two hundred eighty-seven remain unaccounted for.
The circumstances surrounding the capsizing make this accident raise unprecedented questions. Allegedly, the passengers were told to sit tight, as help was minutes away. And in a country were discipline is high, few were surprised that the passengers waited until it was a little too late before they started moving on their own to jump off the ship.
Survivors recount that for thirty to forty-five minutes the passengers did not move and waited for help, as instructed. When the vessel uncharacteristically began to list rather dramatically fast, there was very little the passengers could do to crawl up a steep and wet floor, or out of their cabins—yes, some wereeven in their cabins—leaving many trapped to their death.
This is a shock to a country that is known for safety. Consider, too, that their vessels are new. The result of the ensuing investigation will be significant in improving maritime safety, especially to less-developed countries like the Philippines, which ferry hundreds of thousands of its people across hundreds of islands that dot the archipelago in dilapidated fifty plus year-old hand-me-down ships.
This South Korean maritime disaster should highlight that even dated vessels succumb to the vagaries of the sea. And this should serve as a wakeup call to our authorities to make serious amendments to our laws. It does not help that our laws presume warranty on seaworthiness, because we have not seen it make a difference.
We have had tragic maritime events, and we have lost thousands of lives, but we’re yet to see one ship owner or its officers go to jail. Many shipping companies continue to operate after paying loose change to lives lost, and serving only short suspensions.
It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century, where people shuttle to outer space for vacation, we still risk our lives every time we ferry across islands to see loved ones, or visit our hometowns.
Our authorities should stop putting thousands of us each day, especially this lent when thousands have gone to their hometowns, in danger by allowing these shipping businesses to operate on the pure agenda of profit, and with scant regard for passenger safety.
Mistakes are made; lives are lost. But the costliest mistakes are those that we fail to learn from. It is high time we grounded these floating coffins before another tragedy claims lives senselessly.
 For now, let us join our South Korean brothers and sisters in praying for the safety and survival of these missing young passengers.
erratum:The post title as originally posted on April 17, 2014, read "Tragedy Struck South Korea, as Ship Sinks Claiming Over a Hundred Young Lives." It is unfortunate that confusion got the better of the author amid the deluge of emotional accounts of the event. It is now corrected to read "Tragedy Struck South Korea, as Ship Sinks Claiming Young Lives.



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