Tearful relatives seek answers on Red Sea ferry
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Tearful relatives seek answers on Red Sea ferry

Tears dripped from Tayseer Higazy's face as she sat praying, desperate for word on survivors of a Red Sea.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2006 13:57 IST
Ola Galal (IANS)
Ola Galal (IANS)

Tears dripped from Tayseer Higazy's face as she sat praying, desperate for word on survivors of a Red Sea ferry disaster in which hundreds were feared dead.

"I only want my son," Higazy, mother of a 25-year-old ship worker, said with a sob. "We came here to ask about him but they tell us they have no information."

Sitting in a guesthouse, the middle-aged woman from Cairo was among crowds of anxious people in this port city where the doomed ferry was headed before it sank on an overnight trip from Dubah, Saudi Arabia, Friday.

Mindful of the mood of frustration, dozens of helmeted riot police with shields lined up in front of Safaga's port and the office of the company that owns the ship, barring anyone from entering.

Egyptian officials said some 1,400 passengers and crew, most of them Egyptian, were aboard the al-Salam Boccaccio ferry and at least 293 survived.

Several injured people were taken to a hospital in the resort of Hurghada, 60 km to the north of Safaga. Hopes remained that a growing search and rescue operation would recover more survivors.

Truckloads of Egyptians from southern villages along the Nile arrived in Safaga seeking information on their loved ones. Others lined up at public phones trying to get statements from officials, but to no avail.

Ambulances drove in and out of the port without carrying any bodies.

Most of the ship passengers were Egyptians working in the Gulf, while others were stragglers from the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Mourid Khalil said he heard about the accident on television and was contacted by his family to find out the fate of his second cousin who was coming from Kuwait, where he worked. He was angry at the authorities

"They just tell us there is nothing at all, there is no information, even though we have been asking them repeatedly. All we want to know if he is missing or has survived," he said.

Relatives of passengers said they asked the authorities for a list of names of the survivors but got none, raising their anxiety even more.

An official at the Red Sea governor' office said that rescue teams were sent out to sea and 30 survivors were due to reach Egypt later Friday. The survivors were picked up 90 km south of Safaga, closer to the Saudi port of Dhiba, the source said.

But the wait was nerve-wracking. Ezz Eddine Abdel Hakim, an elderly man from Qena, stood weeping surrounded by a crowd.

"Every time we ask them, they say they don't have information and that no statements were released," he said waving his hand in a dismissive sign.

"The question is why the Egyptian authorities are still not aware of who sank and who died. We have been making a million phone calls, but no one wants to answer us."

Abdel Hakim, whose 42-year-old cousin was returning from Saudi Arabia after working as a teacher, said he and other relatives stood for hours at the port without getting any news.

"Then we went to the Safaga hospital, but the security police did not allow us to enter," Abdel Hakim said.

First Published: Feb 04, 2006 13:31 IST