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50th Wahine Day commemorations to have survivors attending

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Nearly 70 survivors of New Zealand's worst shipwreck in modern times, as well as family members of the 53 who died, have registered to attend the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Wahine disaster in and around Wellington on Tuesday, 10 April.

"They, along with rescuers and those involved in the disaster relief, are coming from across the country, from Australia, Thailand and the United Kingdom," says Rhys Jones, Chair of the Wahine 50 Charitable Trust - formed three years ago by a group of survivors and rescuers to plan the 50th commemorations.

"As well as being a very significant day for those with a tangible connection to the Wahine disaster, this 50th anniversary is an important day for the wider community," says Rhys.

On 10 April 1968, the Wahine hit Barrett Reef in Wellington harbour and started to list. By the time its passengers and crew were ordered to disembark, the community had sprung into action. Boat owners and other volunteers took to the harbour, risking their lives to rescue people in the face of the most appalling conditions.

"On land too, the communities of Eastbourne and Seatoun were galvanised into action," says Rhys. "Hospital staff, police, ambulance staff, and many more were also involved.Thanks to this astonishing response, 683 passengers and crew survived."

"We invite all to join us on 10 April at the Wahine 50th commemorations," says Rhys. "This anniversary is a time to remember the heartbreak as well as the courage shown on that disastrous day 50 years ago. But it is also an opportunity to reinforce the importance of community - of pulling together to help in times of adversity - and of the need for us all to be prepared."

The programme is diverse. It features a dawn service; choral tributes; a rare Steam-past Review on Wellington’s harbour; public displays by school children, rescue and safety experts, and the Wellington Museum; and more.

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