Dive boat sinks in flames off California, 34 missing

Firefighters respond to a boat fire off the coast of southern California. The US Coast Guard launched several boats to search for survivors. (AP Photo)
Updated 03 September 2019

Dive boat sinks in flames off California, 34 missing

  • 34 people were sleeping below deck when the scuba-diving boat caught fire off the California coast
  • Five crew members who were in a cabin above deck made it off the boat

LOS ANGELES:  A commercial scuba-dive boat sank amid intense flames early Monday off the coast of Southern California and 34 passengers were unaccounted for, the US Coast Guard said.
Many were feared dead.
Fire crews in helicopters, small boats and a Coast Guard cutter spent hours desperately battling the fierce pre-dawn fire on the 75-foot (23-meter) Conception, which had been on a diving excursion around Santa Cruz Island.
But the blaze and intense heat prevented them from breaching the vessel’s hull to search for survivors before the craft sank, the Coast Guard said.
Five Conception crew members were awake and jumped into the water when flames burst out around 3:15 am (1015 GMT), Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester told reporters in a televised briefing.
The five were rescued by people on a pleasure craft called the Grape Escape, Rochester said.
She said it was unclear whether the Conception’s crew had been able to try to rescue any passengers, all of whom were believed to have been sleeping in a bunk cabin below decks.
She said 34 people — not the 33 reported earlier by the Coast Guard — were unaccounted for when the Conception sank 20 yards (meters) offshore, leaving only its bow exposed.
“I’m unaware of any survivors at this time,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Aaron Bemis told CNN earlier, adding that it was too soon to confirm casualties.
Rochester said the Coast Guard was still in “response phase” — meaning search and rescue efforts were continuing, primarily through a shoreline search for possible survivors.
She said the Conception, which was launched in 1981 by a Santa Barbara-based company called Truth Aquatics, “has been in full compliance” with safety regulations, and that its owner was cooperating with investigators.
Asked whether there had been an explosion on board or a slow-developing fire, Rochester said that “the only Mayday call we received was the vessel was engulfed in flames.”
Bemis said the fire was put out multiple times but flared back up, apparently because of the amount of fuel in the vessel, which could carry up to 1,600 gallons, according to the company website.
Bill Nash, a spokesperson for Ventura County, told CNN many people were feared dead. Crews from that county and from Santa Barbara County had joined the Coast Guard in battling the fire.
“It’s a large boat, and we know we have numerous fatalities,” Nash said.
The Truth Aquatics website said the Conception, listed as having bunks for up to 46 people, had been scheduled to return Monday from a three-day trip after visiting several diving spots around Santa Cruz Island.
The area is popular for a variety of water and outdoor sports.


Over 1 million marooned in Bangladesh as floods worsen

Updated 14 July 2020

Over 1 million marooned in Bangladesh as floods worsen

  • Water levels at major rivers were rising Tuesday at around two dozen points in 20 districts
  • Bangladesh is crisscrossed by 230 rivers, including 53 shared with India

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Heavy flooding is worsening in parts of Bangladesh, with over 1 million villagers marooned or leaving their homes for higher ground along with their cattle and other belongings, officials and volunteers said Tuesday.
Water levels at major rivers were rising Tuesday at around two dozen points in 20 districts. Many new areas in northern, northeastern and central Bangladesh have been affected over last 24 hours, Arifuzzman Bhuiyan, an executive engineer with the Water Development Board, said by phone. Bangladesh has 64 districts.
“The situation is worsening," he said. “The worst thing is that the floods are getting prolonged this year, which is a bad sign.”
Bhuiyan said heavy rainfall and rushing waters from upstream India were the main reasons for the floods in the delta nation of 160 million people, which receives monsoon rains between June and October every year, often leading to flooding.
The floods started late last month, and after briefly easing continued to worsen, affecting many new areas, destroying crops and driving people from their homes in several impoverished regions. Bangladesh is crisscrossed by 230 rivers, including 53 shared with India.
In the northern district of Kurigram, one of the worst-hit areas, thousands of villagers have moved from their homes to higher ground since the weekend, bringing along their cattle and other belongings, said Mizanur Rahman Soikat, project coordinator with the Bidyanondo Foundation, a local charity. The foundation has been distributing both cooked and dry food to the flood-affected villagers, many of whom have lost their crops and livelihood.
Soikat said that over the last few weeks, the charity has distributed food to some 135,000 people in Kurigram, while the government’s relief office was also providing food, cash and cattle food.
“Over last two days, the situation has deteriorated and many villages went underwater in the district," he said by phone. “I have seen thousands taking shelter.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement Monday that more than a million Bangladeshis have been marooned by the floods, with the worst of it happening since the weekend.
“Thousands of people are expected to leave their homes throughout the beginning of this week to seek shelter in higher ground as the Water Development Board warned that the onrush of water from upstream would further intensify,” the statement said.
A.T.M. Akhteruzzman, a relief and rehabilitation officer in the northern district of Rangpur, said about 50,000 people who live along the Teesta River basin have been marooned.
“Waters are coming from India, while heavy rainfalls in the region are causing havoc,” he said. “We are trying to do our best to stand by the people, as we have already provided more than 300 tons of rice, cattle food, baby food and a good amount of cash. Our relief operations will continue."