1,000 feared dead in Red Sea ferry sinking

CAIRO, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- At least 1,000 people are feared dead after an Egyptian ferry sank in a storm during a crossing of the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia.

Most of the passengers on board the al-Salam Boccaccio '98 were believed to be Egyptian pilgrims returning from Mecca, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported. The vessel was 40 miles from the Egyptian coast, near the end of an 18-hour voyage from Duba to Safaga.


Egyptian authorities said 314 people were found in lifeboats or pulled from the water. About 1,400 people were believed to have been on board, along with 42 vehicles.

The 35-year-old roll-on roll-off ferry was built in Italy and operated there until 1998. The design is notoriously unstable if water gets into the vehicle deck, and the ship was one of several that could no longer operate in Europe after the tightening of regulations that followed the 1994 sinking of the Estonia in the Baltic.

Extra decks had also been added to increase capacity.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered an immediate inquiry.

A sister ship, the al-Salam '95, sank in a Red Sea collision with a Cypriot vessel in October, killing two and injuring 40.


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