Stories From Gaogang......9
There’s continuous unending industry lining both banks of the river. Thousands of small boats, barges and ships are ever busy carrying their precious cargo up and down the river. The ships transiting in the river do not have very stringent controls on certification which are put in place to ensure safety of life of people on board and that of the cargo. So many dilapidated ships in delicate state of health continue to carry cargo and earn freight. The tragedies in the rivers are less common and accidents too are rare but they do happen and many times the consequences can be serious.
Though tornadoes in this part of the world are rare but they do occur sometime. Rain, especially during the rainy season comes suddenly. With lot of thunder and accompanied squall it can catch one unawares. The ships have pretty sophisticated equipment on board but there is no warning for sudden gusts and cloud bursts. This dance of rain, wind and thunder is nothing in comparison with the majestic display of lightening and thunder, torrential rain and high velocity winds that occur in the Amazon.
Last year a newly furnished passenger boat got caught in a furious whirlwind and torrential rain that came so suddenly that the Captain couldn’t take action in time and the boat overturned killing all of some four hundred passengers on board.
The passenger vessels that operate in the river have an open space in the centre where the vehicles are parked. There are huge doors at each end which when laid down act as bridges between the jetty and the ferry.
But things can be dangerous if the vessel has to cross even a small stretch of an open sea. There are many ferries and freighters that transport men and cargo around Europe and in many cases they have to cross short stretches of open seas. That’s where the tragedies occur. The open sea passage between Africa and Europe is less than 10 Nautical Miles but every day we hear of boat tragedies resulting in death of people trying to migrate to the greener pastures. Some years ago a Dutch ferry had sunk, just when it came out of the dock out in the open and was caught in heavy rolling because the swell in the sea was heavy. Unfortunately, the doors of the drive-in hatch hadn’t been sealed properly when the ferry and water started gushing in. The force of the water gushing in tremendous. Some of you may have seen its images in the films but all those are computer generated, the real life situation is far more intimidating.