South Africa's first submarine, the Maria Van Riebeeck, and a French submarine of the same class, collided during Mediterranean exercises near Toulon on Thursday night (20 August).
South Africa's first submarine, the Maria Van Riebeeck, and a French submarine of the same class, collided during Mediterranean exercises near Toulon on Thursday night (20 August). At least four men aboard the French vessel were killed. The Maria Van Riebeeck was launched at the Nantes shipyard in March of last year, in the presence of high-ranking South Africa and French officials.
A hole, about 40 feet (12 metres) long was ripped into the side of the French submarine, the Galatee, which was beached on underwater rocks off the coast. A spokesman said four French Sailors were killed and four slightly injured aboard the French craft, but tow others missing since the collision were considered dead.
The collision occurred on the surface when the Maria Van Riebeeck, 850 tons, which was handed over to South Africa a month ago amid an international storm over arms sales to the apartheid republic, was returning to Toulon harbour. An explosion was reported on one of the submarines.
The South African submarine had been carrying out a series of trial manoeuvres in the Mediterranean around Toulon, where more than 150 South African sailors and officers are training.
The Maria Van Riebeeck was able to carry on to the Toulon base and a naval spokesman said none of his crew were hurt.
The Maria Van Riebeeck was launched by Mrs. Botha, wife of the South African Minister of Defence.