IT IS one of the most tragic events in world history and affected hundreds of Southampton families.

But now the sinking of Titanic could become one of the world’s most popular attractions after plans were unveiled for a theme park in China based on the 1912 disaster which killed 1,500 people.

The £100m project is being funded by the Seven Star Energy Investment Group and will be based in the landlocked Sichuan province, 932 miles from the nearest ocean.

Daily Echo:

It would include a simulator that would allow hundreds of people to feel the “shake and tumble” of the shipwreck.

Theme park goers will experience the feeling of water pouring down on them through light and sound effects – leaving them fearing they may drown.

But the idea has sparked fierce criticism in Hampshire, with the plan slammed as “insensitive” and “deplorable”.

Douglas Piper, 80, whose grandfather John Barnes was a fireman on the ship, said: “This is exploitation. I don’t go in for that sort of thing and I don’t like anyone who wants to make money or jokes out of a disaster.”

Daily Echo:

Mr Piper, from Sholing, secretary of the Solent branch of the Merchant Navy Association, added: “The idea should never have got off the ground but you just can’t control people who want to make money.”

Geoff Watts, founder of the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery, which has memorials to survivors of the disaster as well as those lost at sea, said it was a “bad idea”.

He said: “I can’t speak for the society on the whole, but personally it’s not something I want to see. Our attitude is one of respect the whole story, of the Titanic and those who died or survived it. Our Titanic memorial tours are thoroughly respectful.”

Daily Echo:

Rudi Newman, honorary secretary of the British Titanic Society, said the plan was “frankly deplorable”.

He said: “When Clive Palmer started suggesting a ‘Titanic 2’ there were positives and negatives and public opinion on that project hinged on whether it was treated like a theme park.

“To actually have a theme park being proposed is in incredibly poor taste.

Whatever next, the Pompeii experience?”

He added: “An amusement park based on a truly horrible disaster is frankly deplorable.”

But others have defended the park, including actor Bernard Hill, who appeared as doomed Captain Edward Smith in the hit 1997 James Cameron film Titanic.

He was at the launch of the project in Hong Kong and insisted the attraction “would not belittle the disaster”.

Su Shaojun, chief executive of Seven Star, added: “We think it’s worth spreading the spirit of the Titanic. The universal love and sense of responsibility shown during the Titanic shipwreck represent the spiritual richness of human civilisation.

We will let people experience water coming in by using sound and light effects. They will think, ‘The water will drown me, I must escape with my life’.”

The park, expected to open in 2016, would also feature a manmade beach, a ‘6D’ cinema and replicas of European castles.