Abu Dhabi

Saluting memory of shipwreck dead

 Jane Taylor (L) swims by as Craig Dunn (R) holds a Union Jack Red Ensign flag eight meters above the wreckage of the MV Dara, a British merchant ship that sunk in 21 meters of water off the coast of Ajman with 819 people on board with 238 killed on April 8, 1961

By Vesela Todorov - The National

Half a century ago today, the UAE witnessed the Gulf's worst peacetime maritime disaster as an explosion tore through the MV Dara, killing at least 236 people.

Two days later, the ship sank off the shores of Umm al Qaiwain, where it remains to this day, 20 metres below the surface.

The story of the MV Dara made headlines around the world at the time, but today, few are aware of the accident.

Yesterday, divers from the British Sub Aqua Clubs in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi paid a dignified tribute to those lost in the sinking.

Dropping to a depth of 11 metres, they dodged the underwater currents, for which the area is renowned, and erected the Red Ensign, the flag of the merchant naval fleet, at the stern of the shipwreck.

The gesture of respect was the idea of Ian Hussey, a Sharjah-based civil engineer and honorary chairman of the Sharjah Wanderers Dive Club.

Mr Hussey said he had dived the site more times than he could remember. The abundance of fish can make some visitors forget the wreck's sombre history.

"It is a very nice dive," he said. "You tend to forget that aspect of it."

Determined to remind the diving community about the history, Mr Hussley contacted fellow divers from his club as well as divers from Dubai and the capital. About 60 people dived the site yesterday.

It was up to four of them to attach the 1.5-by-2.4-metre flag to the wreck. One was Dr Steven Winstanley, the diving officer at the Abu Dhabi Sub Aqua Club.