x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Bittersweet reunion

The discovery of a bag from a shipwreck offers some consolation for its owner. It's also a reminder to mark you luggage in good ink.

There wasn't anything of monetary value that would have prompted a missing bag claim, and anyway, that wouldn't have helped. Abandoned when the cruise ship Costa Concordia began sinking in the Mediterranean on January 13, a suitcase belonging to an Austrian survivor was found by children on the Italian island of Elba, dozens of kilometres from the site of the disaster.

The bag's discovery, condition and contents offer a few lessons from the disaster that, no doubt, still haunts its 4,220 survivors and the families of the 32 people who died or are missing, presumed dead.

The bag, said to be in "relatively good condition", may have fallen into the water only two weeks ago when the partially submerged wreck was hit by four-metre waves during a storm. Carrying stickers identifying the Concordia and its owner, the bag contained some clothes, a pair of shoes and two dog-eared books by Clive Cussler, the American adventure novelist whose works, ironically, include Raise the Titanic.

Retrieval of the bag was, no doubt, a bittersweet moment for the owner; a reminder of a tragedy that the cruise industry and authorities must continue to investigate. It was also something of a minor miracle, given that the world's airlines lose 26 million bags every year in the course of normal business. Of those lost in 2010, one million were never recovered.