"Jiangya" Shipwreck in 1948- A Tragedy More Serious Than Titanic

The explosion of Jiangya Ship out on the sea from the Yangtze River outlet 52 years ago once killed 2,353 people, 836 more than those in the Titanic accident, therefore claiming the biggest victim number among world top four ship accidents.

This is a revelation by Chen Jianguo, deputy chief-editor of commission for compiling navigation history of the Yangtze River.

Published by the People's Communication Press on November 1997, "A Brief History of Navigation on the Yangtze River" says the Jiangya ship, altogether with 3253 passengers aboard, suddenly exploded after sailing out of Wusong Estuary, December 3, 1948. "The victim number hit over 2350". While according to Wuhan Evening reporting, the "Brief History" published in May 1992 says there is altogether 2798 people on board, and " a total of 1483 passengers and crew died" after the explosion and sinking of the ship. Here appears a gap of 867 number of victims between the two.

The 79-year-old Chen says he has been to Shanghai many times for old newspaper reports on the accident, calling on many people concerned. Investigation shows there are more than 3200 people on that ship, including 2607 ticket-holders, 191 crew, and over 400 disbanded Kuomintang soldiers and pick-ups of the crew who have no tickets.

After the accident, 2353 victims are identified and more than 900 people get rescued, so we should say the "Brief History" carries precise numbers.

The other two big ship accidents in the world are: on April 29, 1865, a US ship exploded on the Mississippi, 1450 people died and, on October 16, 1936, a Chinese warship sank on the Yangtze River, claiming over 1200 lives.

The British luxury passenger liner Titanic sank on April 14-15, 1912, en route to New York City from Southampton, Eng., during its maiden voyage. The vessel sank with a loss of about 1,500 lives at a point about 400 miles (640 km) south of Newfoundland.

The great ship, at that time the largest and most luxurious afloat, was designed and built by William Pirrie's Belfast firm Harland and Wolff to service the highly competitive Atlantic Ferry route. It had a double-bottomed hull that was divided into 16 presumably watertight compartments. Because four of these could be flooded without endangering the liner's buoyancy, it was considered unsinkable. Shortly before midnight on April 14, the ship collided with an iceberg; five of its watertight compartments were ruptured, causing the ship to sink at 2:20 AM April 15. Inquiries held in the United States and Great Britain alleged that the Leyland liner Californian, which was less than 20 miles (32 km) away all night, could have aided the stricken vessel had its radio operator been on duty and thereby received the Titanic's distress signals. Only the arrival of the Cunard liner Carpathia 1 hour and 20 minutes after the Titanic went down prevented further loss of life in the icy waters.

Many of those who perished on the ship came from prominent American, British, and European families. Among the dead were the noted British journalist William Thomas Stead and heirs to the Straus and Astor fortunes. The glamour associated with the ship, its maiden voyage, and its notable passengers magnified the tragedy of its sinking in the popular mind. Legends arose almost immediately around the night's events, those who had died, and those who had survived. Heroes and heroines, such as American Molly Brown, were identified and celebrated by the press. The disaster and the mythology that has surrounded it have continued to fascinate millions.

By PD Online Staff Li Heng

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