Italy re-opens probe into 1991 ferry disaster that left 140 dead

EMERGENCY SERVICES WEEK
Moby Prince in 1990 (Photo: MarineTraffic.com/DUNKAN)

The Italian Parliament has re-opened an investigation into a 1991 fire incident that killed 140 people on board a passenger vessel in one of the deadliest maritime disasters to occur in the country since the end of World War II.

The re-launching of the probe into the tragedy involving the Ro-Pax ferry Moby Prince was recently confirmed by Andrea Romano, deputy leader of the country’s Democratic Party.

Mr Romano said the new investigation seeks to shed “a full, definitive light” on the events that led to the tragedy, especially since the initial investigations that were conducted in the immediate aftermath of the incident were unable to establish its exact causes and did not result in any convictions.

The incident involving Moby Prince occurred on April 10, 1991, as the ferry departed Livorno for Olbia in northeastern Sardinia with 75 passengers and 65 crewmembers on board.

As the ferry was manoeuvring to exit Livorno harbour, its bow struck the anchored oil tanker Agip Abruzzo, which then resulted in a hull breach on the latter vessel.

Moby Prince‘s bow eventually penetrated right through to one of Agip Abruzzo‘s cargo tanks, causing some of the light crude oil contained within to spill into the water and onto the ferry’s deck. The spilled oil then caught fire, and the ferry was engulfed in flames within minutes.

All but one of the 141 people who were on board the ferry perished in the incident, many of them dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. The tanker’s crew, meanwhile, were all successfully rescued.

Initial investigations revealed that Moby Prince‘s distress calls were not heard by any local emergency response agencies as these were too garbled to be understood over the radio. Further, the subsequent rescue operation was plagued by coordination problems, which additional government investigations showed to be among the main causes of the slow response that then led to massive loss of life.

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