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March 6, 1987: Cross Channel ferry sinks

The ferry Herald of Free Enterprise capsized shortly after leaving a Belgian port bound for Dover, England with 543 mainly British passengers and crew

Image Credit: Gulf News Archives
Zeebrugge Ferry Disaster, English Channel
Gulf News

The official death toll from the sinking of a British cross-channel car ferry off the Belgian coast rose to 193. Provincial Governor Oliver Vanneste said, revising earlier figures from the disaster, said 408 people had been saved out of the 543 people on board. Vanneste spoke almost 24 hours after the ferry Herald of Free Enterprise capsized shortly after leaving this northern Belgian port bound for Dover, England with 543 mainly British passengers and crew. Divers said there was practically no hope of finding more people alive in the ice-cold water. Survivors told stories of anguish and one said, “it was total panic when the water rushed in.” Some witnesses said the bow door of the 8,000-ton roll-on roll-off ferry, lying on its side off Zeebrugge Harbour, was open. But Vanneste discounted reports that these doors were not properly shut when the ferry sailed. The ferry had just left for Dover. England, when it capsized in calm seas about one mile off Zeebruggc.

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