Almost 300 people are missing off the coast of South Korea after a ferry there, carrying mostly schoolchildren, capsized and sank. About 164 people have been pulled from the wreckage, and the race to find survivors is well underway.
No one ever expects a disaster, but this one has especially stunned people. Passengers say they heard a loud thud, which suggests the vessel collided with something, but it’s too early to tell. “This particular ferry was built in Japan, who make some of the best ships in the world. It wasn’t anywhere near full and it was travelling a well-worn route in reasonably calm seas,” the BBC’s Richard Westcott explains. “The speed with which it flipped over and sank is a major concern.”
So if conditions were near-perfect for a smooth journey, what happened? And could the same happen in U.S. waters?
The American ferry industry, which carries tens of millions of people each year, has a good safety record. It’s also heavily regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard and state governmental agencies, from vessel design and construction to repair and inspection. In a typical year, private ferry-related deaths are in the single digits, according to the Passenger Vessel Association.
Still, some are worried about ferry infrastructure. An anonymous captain for the Staten Island Ferry recently told the New York Post that the eight boats that carry 60 million people to and from Manhattan are “ill-designed, poorly maintained safety hazards.”
“I don’t understand how the Coast Guard allows these boats to go out sometimes,” he continued. “They really do put people at risk. If this were a private company, the Coast Guard would be all over them.”
In 2010, a ferryboat carrying 244 people crashed into the St. George Terminal on Staten Island after an electrical malfunction took out its propellers, injuring 50 passengers.
The Coast Guard rebuked the unnamed captain’s claims. The Staten Island Ferry’s operator, New York City’s Department of Transportation, “has been recognized as having an aggressive, pro-active safety program,” the agency said. The Coast Guard conducts safety inspections of the ferry four times a year.
The bleak reality, however, is that no number of inspections can ever prevent maritime accidents, in South Korea or in the U.S., especially when external factors are involved. “It doesn’t matter how well built the ship is,” BBC’s Westcott writes, “collisions can sink vessels very quickly.”
What We're Following See More »
"Democrats panicked by third-party candidates drawing support away from Hillary Clinton are ramping up their attacks against Gary Johnson and warning that a vote for a third party is a vote for Donald Trump. Liberal groups are passing around embarrassing videos of Johnson and running ads against him warning about his positions on issues like climate change that are important to young voters and independents."
Russo-Western relations are getting thornier all the time. "Dutch-led criminal investigators said Wednesday they have solid evidence that a Malaysian jet was shot down by a Buk missile moved into eastern Ukraine from Russia. Wilbert Paulissen, head of the Central Crime Investigation department of the Dutch National Police, said communications intercepts showed that pro-Moscow rebels had called for deployment of the mobile surface-to-air weapon, and reported its arrival in rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine." Russia, of course, is denying culpability.
In its roughly 125-year history, the Arizona Republic has never endorsed a Democratic candidate for president. Until now. "The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified," the editors write, as they throw their support to Hillary Clinton.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have reached a deal which is likely to avert a government shutdown. The biggest impediment had been the GOP's refusal to include funding for Flint water system reconstruction in the continuing resolution, and this solution provides an alternative measure likely to appease both sides. The funding for Flint will be included in the Water Resources and Development Act as an amendment to the version passed by the House of Representatives, one which will be passed in the senate. It now appears likely that Congress will in fact be able to keep the government open.
Monday night's debate may have inspired some in Congress, as Senate Minority Leader has decided to take a stand of his own. Reid is declining to allow a vote on a "bipartisan bill that would bolster U.S. spectrum availability and the deployment of wireless broadband." Why? Because of a "broken promise" made a year ago by Republicans, who have refused to vote on confirmation for a Democratic commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission to a second term. Harry Reid then took it a step further, invoking another confirmation vote still outstanding, that of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.