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GOA'S WORST FERRY DISASTER by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

On Friday the 13th of January 2012, the Costa Concordia cruise ship hit a rock and partially capsized off the coast of Italy. Of the 4252 passengers and crew aboard, 17 died and 16 are still unaccounted for as of yesterday, 30th January. Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families of the victims and those still missing in the Costa Concordia accident, and especially for Russel Rebello from Mumbai, a steward on the ill-fated Costa Concordia, and the only Indian still unaccounted for among the 203 Indians that were on board the cruise ship (202 Indian crew members and 1 Indian passenger).

The Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster took place almost exactly a century after the infamous Titanic tragedy of 15th January 1912, and brought to my mind the terrible Goa ferry boat disaster that took place on 3rd December 1901 in Goa.

Goa ferry accident

On that fateful day, the launch “GOA” capsized while crossing the Mandovi river from Verem to Panjim. There were around 170 passengers on the Goa ferry, of which 81 met their watery grave. The passengers were on their way to Old Goa, dressed in their Sunday best to attend the solemn feast Mass of St. Francis Xavier. The dead included 34 males and 47 females, of which 15 were children. Of the victims on the ill-fated ferry, 21 were from Saligao, 17 from Calangute, 12 from Reis Magos, 10 from Candolim, six from Nagoa de Bardez, six from Parra, two from Siolim, two from Nerul, two from Pilerne and one each from Arpora, Anjuna and Panjim.

Mandovi memorial cross

A cross was built on the southern bank of the Mandovi, near the Caes dos Gujiras, Panjim, in memory of those who perished in the worst Goa ferry accident ever, and installed on 3rd December 1904. Two plaques were fixed on the pedestal, one on the northern side and the other on the southern side, both engraved in Portuguese. Here is the English translation of the inscriptions:

“In memory of the 81 victims of the tragedy of the launch GOA on December 3, 1901 – dedicates the Goan diaspora of Aden.”

“In memory of the unfortunate 81 victims of the tragedy of the launch GOA that took place on 03-12-1901, this unique landmark is dedicated by the Goan diaspora of Aden requesting all those who pass by this place, a prayer for their eternal repose.”

This cross is still standing at the original spot and is protected by a canopy. Incidentally, one of those rescued from the capsized Goa ferry in the waters of the Mandovi was an eight-year-old boy, Faustino de Souza, who later joined the priesthood and became the founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Holy Family of Nazareth (SFN) in Sancoale, Goa. The nascent congregation was housed in the ancestral house of Blessed Joseph Vaz in Sancoale on 16th June 1935.

Here is a list of those from Saligao who were confirmed as dead in the Goa ferry disaster of 1901. 1.Leopoldina de Sousa, 30 years, married. 2.Crystalina de Mello e Souza, 30 years, widow. 3.Luciana de Figueiredo, 39 years, wife of Santana Vaz. 4.Anna Candida Gomes, widow of Damião Caetano de Mello, 53 years. 5.Pedro dos Remédios, son of Caetano dos Remédios, 58 years. 6.Adelina Vas, daughter of Santana Vaz, married, aged 31 years. 7.Caetano Francisco Nunes, son of Joaquim Manuel Nunes, married, 36 years. 8.Robertina Vaz, daughter of Lourenço Caetano Vaz, age 15 years, spinster. 9.António Vicente Saldanha, son of Caetano António Saldanha, 20 years, married. 10.Joaquim Mariano Fernandes, son of Domingos Fernandes, bachelor, 28 years old. 11.Adelina Coelho, daughter of Manuel Coelho, 50 years old. 12.Escolástica dos Remédios, daughter of Pedro dos Remédios, 18 years old. 13.Rachel Gravatinha de Souza, daughter of Pedro Caetano de Sousa, married, age 17 years.

In spite of a search by divers from Dona Paula and Ribandar, sailors from the naval gunboat “Mandovy” and the crew of a patmari from Chapora, several of the passengers of the capsized Goa ferry remained missing and unaccounted for and were presumed dead.

However, in the case of the Costa Concordia accident 110 years later, we still hope and pray that Russel Rebello will somehow be found and rescued, alive and well.

References: •PINHO, Vasco, Snapshots of Indo-Portuguese History – I Pangim, 2007 •Death Registration Book, 1901, Mãe de Deus Church, Saligao, Goa. •The Seer and the Server by Rev. Fr. Faustino de Souza, published by the Congregation of the Sisters of Holy Family of Nazareth, Sancoale, Goa, 1993.