Today in 1999, a ship carrying hundreds of passengers sinks in the Yellow Sea off the east coast of China. The incident claimed the lives of more than 150 passengers, including the captain of the ship while a hundred were missing as the ship went up in flames amidst a storm.
On November 24, the ship, a 9,000-ton Dashun, was carrying travelers from the port city of Yantai in eastern China's Shandong territory to Dalian, close to Korea. It was snowing and breezy when the ship, conveying more than 300 travelers including crew members, left Yantai. With only a few miles into the voyage, a fire broke out on board in the lower deck. However, the cause of the shipwreck is unknown, yet some people claimed that the gas tank on a vehicle the ship was carrying might have burst and caused the fire outbreak.
An SOS distress call was made around 4:30 in the evening of the fateful day (because one of the passengers had made use of a mobile phone to call the Dalian police) when fire on-board the ship forced the passengers to lifeboats. Authorities were aware of the incident, but the fierce and stormy weather denied rescue team access until the following morning. It was reported that one of the crew members, Ma Shuchi, swam six miles to safety, though several people died of cold when they jumped into the freezing water. Of those that were able to escape to the lifeboats, many of them died of cold even as they sat down waiting for the rescue ships. When rescuers showed up, what they could only recover were the bodies from the ocean. Just 36 individuals survived. The burning fire on the Dashun was not quenched until later in the night of 25th of November when the ship sank about a mile off the coast when it drifted towards the seashore.
The Dashun incident was the second catastrophe of November 1999 for the Yantai Car Ferry Company; one of their ships, the Shenlu, had sunk off the shoreline of Dalian weeks prior. These reoccurring incidents made four officers of the Yantai Car Ferry Company, including the general manager, faced trial in China.
The sinking of the Dashun is to this day the worst sea accident in China since 1994, when 133 passengers had lost their lives to a ship collision on the Yangtze River.