Mystery Blast Capsizes Packed Refugee Ship in Haifa; Nearly All Rescued
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Mystery Blast Capsizes Packed Refugee Ship in Haifa; Nearly All Rescued

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The S.S. Patria, carrying 1,771 Jewish refugee illegal immigrants scheduled to be exiled to a British colony for duration of the war, capsized in Haifa harbor this morning as result of a mysterious explosion. Most of the passengers were saved through the work of British troops and police, but a Government communique tonight said some fatalities were feared.

Immediately after receiving news of the explosion, the Jewish National Council (Vaad Leumi) and the Hadassah Medical Organization, supported by funds from the American women’s Zionist organization, dispatched money and clothing to Haifa to aid the survivors. Jewish leaders voiced praise for the efficient rescue work of the British.

The communique stated: “The Government regrets to announce that this morning, as the result of an explosion the cause of which is not yet known, the S.S. Patria, lying in Haifa harbor heeled over and is now setting on the bottom of the harbor. Some 1,800 illegal immigrants were aboard who were awaiting transfer to a British colony. Rescue work was undertaken immediately, but some fatalities are feared.”

Effective seamanship and speedy work of Palestine s maritime patrol, aided by reconnoitering planes which directed the rescuers, resulted in the saving of most of the refugees, who first were brought to the Haifa breakwater and then transferred to shore.

The ship went down with amazing suddenness. Tonight only a small part of the superstructure was visible above the water.

The 17771 refugees arrived in Palestine waters on two unseaworthy ships, the Pacific and the Milos, on Nov. 10 and were taken to Haifa by police boats. They were held in the port and then transferred to the Patria to be sent to a British colony, in accordance with the Palestine Government’s new policy, announced in a communique last Thursday, of sending Palestine illegal immigrants to a colony for duration of the war.

Refusal of the Government to admit the refugees, who had been wandering on the Danube and the Mediterranean for several months before reaching Palestine, aroused great indignation among Palestine Jews, culminating in a general strike last Wednesday. At the same time the refugees went on a hunger strike.

What treatment the Government would accord to the survivors of the explosion remained problematical tonight. In its communique last Thursday the Government said that it regarded “the revival of illegal Jewish immigration at the present juncture as likely to affect the local situation most adversely and to prove a serious menace to British interests in the Near East.”

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