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Search for Missing Ferry Continues in the Red Sea

Al-Salam-BoccaccioAn Egyptian Ferry is missing in the Red Sea as it was returning to Safaga, Egypt from Saudi Arabia last night. Strong storms in the area have hampered rescue efforts for the over 1,300 passengers on board. The ship seen from the picture on the right looks very top heavy and could have stability issues in rough seas.

A frantic air-sea search was underway in the Red Sea today for an Egyptian passenger ferry missing for more than 12 hours after vanishing from radar screens with 1,310 people on board.
Saudi and Egyptian naval vessels and helicopters are battling low visibility and bad weather in a widespread search for the Al Salam Boccaccio 98 which lost all contact with controllers shortly after sailing from the port of Duba, in western Saudi Arabia, at 7pm last night (1600GMT).
The 1970 built roll-on-roll-off ferry was due to have docked at Egypt’s southern port of Safaga at 3am local time (0100GMT). Latest reports suggest that a lifeboat carrying three people has been spotted in the sea in the area where the vessel was last recorded. There were unconfirmed reports of bodies floating in the sea.
“We lost all contact with the ship shortly after it left the Saudi port,” said one maritime official at Suez. Its last position on the radar screens was 62 miles from Duba. A fierce electrical storm raged for more than three hours across the Red Sea last night, which may have hampered attempts to send out an SOS signal. via the Times Online.

EL_SALAM89Update: 6:55 AM EST – A search and rescue plane spotted a lifeboat with passengers in the Red Sea on Friday near where an Egyptian ferry disappeared with about 1,300 passengers, an Egyptian health ministry official said. via Reuters

Middle East Online is reporting ” Egyptian helicopters spotted bodies floating in the Red Sea Friday, after maritime authorities said they lost contact with a ferry carrying 1,300 people, mostly Egyptians, a security source said.

Update 7:33  AM – Fox News is reporting that 12 people have been rescued from the water.

The bodies were seen in the waters off the Egyptian coastal port city of Safaja, some 600 kilometers (370 miles) southeast of Cairo, the source said.”

Update 9:25 AM – ReutersCoast Guard vessels pulled dozens of bodies from the water today and rescued 30 survivors, officials said.

The 35-year-old ship, Al Salam 98, which was also carrying around 220 vehicles, went down 40 miles off the Egyptian port of Hurghada as most of the passengers were sleeping, officials said.

Update: 2/4/06, Red Sea ferry survivors say captain fled

SAFAGA, Egypt (Reuters) – Survivors of the Red Sea ferry disaster said on Saturday the Egyptian captain had fled his burning ship by lifeboat and abandoned them to their fate, as hopes faded of finding some 800 missing people.

Egyptian survivor Shahata Ali said the passengers had told the captain about the fire but he told them not to worry.

“We were wearing lifejackets but they told us there was nothing wrong, told us to take them off and they took away the lifejackets. Then the boat started to sink and the captain took a boat and left,” he added, speaking to Reuters Television.

“The captain was the first to leave and we were surprised to see the boat sinking,” added Khaled Hassan, another survivor.

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