Today and tomorrow is the 20 year mark of the sinking of m/s Estonia while she was sailing for Estline from Tallink to Stockholm, in the biggest disaster in nordic waters during peace time.
m/s Estonia was never designed or allowed to sail on the open sea but with lots of different ownership and routes, that had been forgotten. On the night of 27-28/9 1994, with 989 passengers and crew, the visor in the front of the ship was ripped off due to the hard storm. Water was flowing in on car deck and the ship started to rock violently before starting to tilt.
People were hit with loose objects or lost their balance and many fell on the windows and then couldn’t get up. Since it was around 01:00-02:00 in the morning, a lot of people were trapped in their rooms below the deck with doors to the life vests and lifeboats. Many were frozen in chock or too tired or drunk to climb the stairs to safety on deck.
The crew called mayday but had black out so it took them a while to tell the other ships their position. They never send out any alarm to the passengers. About 300 people managed to get out of the ship. They couldn’t launch any of the life boats since the ship was tilting about 90 degrees, so they had to rely on the inflatable life rafts. Lots of people got washed overboard and sucked in underneath the ship or ended up alone in the water.
The people who managed to climb the life rafts had now to face a new struggle: the wait for help. There were ships at the scene almost immediately efter the sinking but the weather was so hard they could only save a few from the water. The helicopters that finally entered the scene managed to save some more after a lot of struggle with the big waves. A lot of people died from drowning, cold or exhaustion during the hours of waiting. Only 137 people were rescued from the water, making the victims 852 in total. Those victims were mainly from Sweden (501) and Estonia (285).
There were a lot of conspirations theories about the sinking (mainly due to the fact that she sank so incredibly fast, under 1 hour) and scandals after scandals. The main part of the bodies were never returned and Sweden, Finland and Estonia made a law that made it impossible for people from those countries to dive or harvest any more of the victims.