Scandinavian Star Survivors Mark Disaster Anniversary
OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Survivors and kin of the 158 victims of the Scandinavian Star ferry fire a year ago gathered in silence outside Parliament on Saturday to press lawmakers to improve maritime safety.
Under such banners as ″Never Another Scandinavian Star,″ about 50 Norwegian protesters stood on the cloudy, chill day as hundreds of shoppers hustled by.
″Those of us who survived have to make sure that something like this never happens again. The government is making progress in improving safety, but we cannot let it slow down. It is still not safe on all ships,″ said Grete Holen, among the 324 survivors.
The Scandinavian Star was engulfed in flames on an overnight run from Oslo to Fredrikshavn, Denmark. Norwegian police have concluded that the fire was set around 2 a.m., on April 7, 1990, probably by a 37-year-old Dane who died in the blaze.
A three-nation Scandinavian commission investigated the disaster and alluded to reports a pyromaniac had been on board.
It was Scandinavia’s worst ferry disaster in history.
Survivors and relatives planned to share their grief at private church services in Oslo and in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sunday, the anniversary of the fire.
But for some, Saturday’s vigil at Parliament was a painful reminder of their friends and family, many of whom were overcome by smoke as they huddled together in cabins or were trapped in corridors. Most were Norwegian.
Facing Oslo’s Saturday crowds was hard, said Ole Westberg, whose 24-year- old daughter Christina died in the fire. ″As you can see, I am having trouble fighting my tears, but we have to remind people that work on improving safety is not over,″ he said.
″We lost our loved ones in a meaningless tragedy. If there are no improvements in safety standards, then our loss becomes all the more meaningless,″ Westberg said, his voice breaking.
The Scandinavian investigating commission said the 20-year-old ferry, registered in the Bahamas, was unfit to sail when it left Oslo on the night of April 6, 1990.
Most of the survivors have accepted an insurance settlement but are considering further civil action.
The VR Dan-No Lines, a subsidiary of the Danish VR Shipping, had taken over the ship on March 30. The Star sailed on its new route two days later with a new crew and conditions the inquiry commission called ″disorderly, dirty and slovenly.″
The 1,000-page report said the ferry’s fire alarms were difficult to hear, a fire door was missing, the crew lacked safety training, and the captain abandoned ship when he should have been leading rescue efforts aboard.
It said simple rule changes, such as requiring sprinklers, could have prevented the disaster.