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Fifty years on, the tragedy of vessel MV Dara lingers

British sub-aqua club remembers incident that claimed 238 lives

  • Around 60 divers from three British sub-aqua clubs in the UAE dived off the coast of Umm Al Quwain to commemorImage Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News
  • Members of the British Sub-Aqua Clubs of Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News
Gulf News

Sharjah: Three British Sub-Aqua Clubs gathered at Umm Al Quwain Friday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the explosion on the Motor Vessel Dara, which claimed the lives of 238 people.

"At the time, the incident was the largest significant event after the Titanic. We obtained a Red Ensign, which is a signature of the British merchant naval fleet, and attached it to the wreck as a mark of respect in remembrance of those who lost their lives," said Ian Hussey, from the Sharjah Wanderers British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC).

Up to 60 members of the BSAC from Sharjah Wanderers Club, Desert Sands Diving Club and Abu Dhabi Sub-Aqua Club met at Hamriyah Beach, where they were then transported by boats to the wreck.

The explosion on the MV Dara took place on April 8, 1961. The vessel now lies at a depth of 20 metres and has become home to marine life and a dive site for clubs across the UAE.

"As with the shipwreck, the memories of this terrible event are fading as the survivors of this disaster come to the end of their generation. It would be a shame if the events are forgotten for generations to come," said Steven Winstanley, dive officer at the Abu Dhabi Sub-Aqua Club, who noted that 584 were rescued from the ship.

The British-India Steam Navigation Company's vessel, which weighed in at 5,030 tonnes, has broken up because of the waves and the MV Dara is now slowly rusting into the seabed.

Winstanley also explained that while the bow is intact, the midships have rolled over and the vessel's keel is facing skyward. The promenade deck has also rolled off but the stern remains relatively intact.

The MV Dara initially set off from Bombay on March 23, 1961, and made her way on a three-week circular route around the Gulf ports of Muscat, Dubai, Bahrain, Abadan and Basra. It arrived in Dubai on April 7, and as it was unloading cargo and disembarking passengers, a storm broke out and it was then decided by the captain to take the ship out of harbour and travel into the storm.

The next morning, a large explosion occurred onboard, which started a series of fires. As a result of the explosion, the vessel then sunk. "Diving on such vessels should be responsibly encouraged in order for the stories to be handed down from diver to diver," Winstanley pointed out.

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