VALIATHURA, southern India, 23 November 1947 – It was like any other balmy Sunday evening at the beach in this fishing community.
Shrieks of laughter pierced the evening air as children played by the seaside while fishermen rested after a day’s toil. Nearby, small cargo vessels were moored to the busy Valiathura pier.
At about 5pm a cry rang out when someone noticed a large steamer drawing closer to the pier. Now, this was unusual as vessels of that size would not approach the shallow waters near the pier and instead would anchor further away in deeper waters. A crowd raced to the pier, which protruded into the sea, to catch a closer glimpse of the approaching steamer, the SS Pandit.
And then tragedy struck: the vessel rammed into the side of the pier shuddering and grinding to a halt. The pier swayed and then collapsed, the sickening crunching sound of iron, wood and rail tracks mangled with the screams of panicked port workers and petrified children, falling into the sea.
A steam crane on the pier tilted, lost balance and fell into the sea, its driver George Chettan jumping out just in the nick of the time. But others were not as fortunate. At least 18 people perished, among them 12-year-old Apu, younger brother to my father Eric, who was away in college. Full article on Aliran website