Egyptian passenger ferry sinks in Red Sea

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Saturday, February 4, 2006

Location map of the accident

An investigation has been commenced by Egypt into the Friday sinking of one of El Salam's passenger ferries in the Red Sea. M/V al-Salam Boccaccio 98 was carrying 1408, including many Egyptians returning from work in Saudi Arabia. The ship left from the port of Dubah in Saudi Arabia enroute to the port of Safaga in Egypt. On the west coast of Saudi Arabia during the night a sandstorm occurred due to high winds.

David Osler of Lloyd's List has said of the ship that "It's a roll-on, roll-off ferry, and there is big question mark over the stability of this kind of ship," he continued and said that "It would only take a bit of water to get on board this ship and it would be all over. ... The percentage of this type of ferry involved in this type of disaster is huge."

Mamdouh Ismail, head of Al-Salaam Maritime Transport Company, stated that another one of El Salam's ferries, Saint Catherine received a distress call from one of the lifeboats of the Boccaccio when it arrived in Dubah from Safaga. The Saint Catherine notified its company headquarters, and El Salam reported it to Egyptian authorities.

According to a statement given to the Associated Press by Ismail, the ferry was carrying 96 crew members, 1,200 Egyptians, and 112 other passengers. A Transport Ministry spokesman has stated that 314 people have been rescued. More than 185 bodies have been recovered from the sea according to an Egyptian police official who has requested anonymity.

Four rescue ships from Egypt arrived Friday afternoon, approximately ten hours after the sinking of the 35-year-old ferry in the night near the Egyptian port of Hurghada. Aid from Britain and the United States was initially refused. Later, both the British HMS Bulwark and the US P3-Orion maritime naval patrol aircraft were recalled, but due to its distance at the later time, the request for the return of the Bulwark was called off by Egypt.

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