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MV Dara Bombing 1961 #maritimehistory

The MV Dara was a Dubai based passenger liner, built at a shipbuilding yard in Scotland during 1948. The vessel traveled mostly between the Persian Gulf and the Indian subcontinent, carrying expatriate passengers who were employed in the Gulf States.

The MV Dara sank in the Persian Gulf on 8 April 1961, as a result of a powerful explosion that caused the deaths of 238 of the 819 persons on board at the time of the voyage, including 19 officers and 113 crew.

British India Navigation Company's ship , mv DARA anchored offshore from Dubai to unload cargoes and some of its 650+ passengers on 7th April 1961. mv DARA's next Port of Call was Muscat in Oman.

Later that day a severe storm developed, causing all operations to stop. A nearby ship dragged its anchor in the high winds and collided with the Dara's bow. Capt Charles Elson, the Dara's Master, decided to take his ship out to sea and ride out the storm. In addition to the passengers and crew, over 70 people had come aboard in Dubai (ship's agents, cargo handlers, tradesmen, officials etc) so the total number of people on board had swelled to 800+. When the storm abated, Capt Elson sailed the Dara back towards Dubai.

Around 4:40 am on 8th April there was a massive explosion on board. Location was 'tween deck next to the galley. The blast burst through an engineroom bulkhead and into two upper decks. All electrical, water, fire and steering systems were knocked out. Crew had no means to fight the fire or control the ship. Captain Enson gave the order to abandon ship.

Panicked passengers and crew leapt overboard or into already overcrowded lifeboats; several of which capsized. One lifeboat, damaged in the earlier collision, began to sink. 565 persons were rescued during an operation by a British Army tank landing craft, a number of ships of the Royal Navy, and several British and foreign merchant ships.

A Norwegian Tanker sailed in to the rescue despite not being "gas free" and at risk of explosion from the Dara's flames, German and Japanese ships were also able to carry out rescues.

Three British Navy Frigates and a U.S. Destroyer managed to get fire fighting parties on board to bring the fires under control. Glasgow registered Salvage Vessel OCEAN SALVOR took the badly damaged Dara in tow but 9.20 a.m. on April 10th, the Dara capsized and sank off Umm Al Qwain.

238 passengers and crew had tragically died in the disaster. Many survivors suffered severe burns and injuries and taken to Bahrain, Dara's Capt. Elson being one of them.

The wreck sits approx 4nm off the coast and 17nm northeast of Dubai, in less than 30 metres of water. Image: Royal Air Force

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