A terrible disaster at sea has to be recorded, one second only in magnitude to the Titanic disaster of two years ago.
The Canadian Pacific liner Empress of Ireland, which had pulled up owing to a fog off Father Point, in the St Lawrence, was run into early yesterday morning by the Norwegian collier Storstad.
The liner was struck a glancing blow amidships, and was torn open almost to the propellers. The watertight compartments were thus rendered useless, and the vessel sank in a few minutes.
Many of the passengers were trapped in their cabins, and had no opportunity of saving themselves.
The wireless appeals for help which were sent out brought steamers hurrying from Rimouski, Quebec, but before they could arrive many had found a watery grave.
Some hundreds – between 300 and 400 – are known to have been saved, most of them rescued almost entirely naked. The death roll is estimated at anything between 700 and 1,000.
Practically everyone was asleep when the shock came. When the awful truth dawned upon the passengers that the liner was rapidly sinking, scores of persons jumped into the water. Numbers of these were picked up later by the rescue steamers, which, fortunately, were less than thirty miles away when they received the wireless distress signals.
News of the disaster was received in Belfast with feelings of intense sorrow, and it was not unnatural that the tidings should recall the loss of the Titanic just a little more than two years ago – an event which brought grief to so many homes, some of them in our own midst.
[The Liverpool-bound Empress of Ireland – built in Glasgow in 1906 – sank in the St Lawrence River, Quebec, Canada, in the early hours of May 29, 1914. Of the 1,477 people on board, 1,012 died.]