'Blocked drains led to Egypt ferry disaster'
Over 1,000 people had lost their lives when the Salam 98 sank in the Red Sea early on February 3.india Updated: Apr 19, 2006 22:39 IST
Blocked drains on the car deck of a ferry which sank in the Red Sea in February contributed to a disaster in which more than 1,000 people lost their lives, an Egyptian parliamentary report said.
The report, obtained by Reuters on Wednesday, said that as water sprayed by crew members tackling a fire built up on the deck, passengers dived down into the water and pulled out paper and plastic bags to try to unblock the drains.
The Salam 98 sank in the Red Sea early on February 3 while on a journey from Daba in Saudi Arabia to Safaga in Egypt.
It was one of the worst marine disasters in Egyptian history and has led to widespread criticism of the crew, the shipping company and the government regulatory authorities.
The report said: "This (the accumulation of water on the car deck) was one of the direct reasons for the ship listing and then sinking. It shows that they (the drains) had not been inspected by the Maritime Safety Board."
In a conversation on the bridge, preserved by a data recorder, the captain of the ferry told his first officer, named as Massoud, that the drains were blocked and should be cleared.
The account tallies closely with some of the initial eyewitness reports that water built up on the car deck because the crew were spraying hoses on a fire. They said that as the ship listed, all the water shifted to one side of the deck, making it increasingly unstable.
But the deck had plenty of drain pipes 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter, which should have been enough to clear the water.
The report noted that another ferry owned by the same company, the Salam 90, caught fire and sank in 2002.
The preliminary report repeated a long list of other safety violations on the vessel, including lifeboats and lifejackets which were not in good order and the crew's failure to send a distress signal.