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22 December 1963 - The TSMS Lakonia - 128 Souls Lost #maritimehistory #OTD

The TSMS Lakonia was a Greek-owned cruise ship which caught fire and sank north of Madeira on 22 December 1963, with the loss of 128 lives.

The vessel was built in the Netherlands as the MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and sailed regularly between Amsterdam and the East Indies.

The ship served as an allied troopship during World War II. She was sold to the General Steam Navigation Company of Greece in 1962.Renamed Lakonia, the ship completed a successful cruise from Southampton to the Canary Islands in April 1963, planned as the first of a long series.

On 19 December, she departed Southampton for an 11-day Christmas cruise with 646 passengers and 376 crew under Captain Mathios Zarbis.

On the fourth evening of the voyage, a steward found the ship's hair salon ablaze, with flames spreading quickly toward the passenger cabins. Alarms sounded too softly to be heard by most people on board. Evacuation was hampered by the overcrowding of lifeboats and the loss of several boats to fire. Some passengers were able to reach the water via the gangways and rope ladders.

Two ships alerted by distress signals managed to save most of the others.

A board of inquiry traced the fire to faulty electrical wiring, but strongly criticised the maintenance of equipment, thoroughness of boat drills, and the standard of supervision. Eight of the ship's officers were charged with negligence.


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