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Extra resources for Crisis Management and Decision Making: Simulation Oriented Scenarios
At 19:28 the watchman on the bridge of a dredging-barge, anchored just outside the Zeebrugge harbor, saw the lights of the HoFE passing by. Then something very strange happened. All of a sudden the lights of the HoFE slowly began to turn upside down, indicating that the ship was capsizing. Few moments later all the lights of the ferry had gone out and there only remained pitch darkness. The watchman ran to the lower deck and told his captain what he had seen. The captain decided to alert the port authorities of Zeebrugge and at the same time ordered his crew to start the engines and head for the spot where, according to the watchman, the HoFE had capsized.
At 19:45 the '900' HQ of the emergency services in Brugge - while at the scene of the disaster a first group of rescued passengers was already aboard both tug boatsstill hesitated to launch the ME-plan's general alert. Eventually, it would not be until approximately 20:00 before a MUT from the AZ Sint-Jan arrived in Zeebrugge. Obviously the particular characteristics of this accident already mentioned were the major reason why the effective intervention of the medical relief services was delayed.
To this should be added that normally, in case of an accident on land, the first emergency services' unit to get to the site of a disaster is an ambulance with a medically highly qualified team, which immediately assesses the situation and decides whether or not reinforcements are needed. This time it was the crew of a couple of rescue boats who arrived first near the wreck of the HoFE and as such had to radio to the shore what the scale and gravity of the emergency situation was. But, apart from very general and vague indications, they were unable to tell, as far as the medical relief side was concerned, what the problems and needs were.