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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 14:52 GMT
Egyptian ferry sinks in Red Sea
The al-Salam Boccaccio'98.
The al-Salam Boccaccio '98 has a capacity of more than 1,400. Photo: Yvan Perchoc/www.faktaomfartyg.com
A ferry carrying about 1,400 people, most of them Egyptians, has sunk in the Red Sea.

Fourteen bodies and about 100 survivors have so far been pulled from the water, Egyptian officials said.

The al-Salam Boccaccio '98 went down about 80km (50 miles) off the Egyptian coast during an overnight journey from Duba in Saudi Arabia to Safaga.

Rescue boats and helicopters are searching the area, but are being hampered by poor weather.

The cause of the sinking is not known, but there were high winds when it left Duba.

The ship was carrying 1,310 passengers and 96 Egyptian crew, Jan Maher, a spokesman for the ship's Egyptian company, el-Salam Maritime Transport, told the BBC.

Most of the passengers were Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, but some were said to be pilgrims returning from Mecca.

There were about 100 people from other countries, including Saudis and Sudanese, Capt Maher said.

"We don't know how many casualties there are or how the ship sank," he said.

The head of administration at el-Salam Maritime Transport, Adel Shukri, said he was not aware of any SOS from the crew.

The 35-year-old ship had been due to arrive at Safaga at about 0300 local time (0100 GMT).


Four Egyptian frigates were looking for survivors, said Egyptian Transport Minister Mohammed Lutfy Mansour.

2002: Joola, Senegal, more than 1,800
1996: Bukoba, Tanzania, more than 500
1994: Estonia, Estonia, 852
1991: Salem Express, Egypt, 464
1987: Dona Paz, Philippines, 4,375
1954: Toya Maru, Japan, 1,172
1948: Kiangya, China, 3,920
1912: Titanic, UK, 1,503 killed

Britain has sent the warship HMS Bulwark to help and it will arrive in a day-and-a-half, the Royal Navy said.

A spokesman for the Egyptian embassy in London, Ayman al-Kaffas, said there was "a vast area of water" for the rescue operation to cover.

Asked about the delay in the disappearance being reported, he said the rescue operation had started just after midnight, within an hour or an hour-and-a-half of the ship going missing.

Capacity: 1,487
Built: Italy 1970
Length: 118m (388ft)
Gross tonnage: 11,779t
Owner: El-Salam Maritime

The general manager of the Saudi branch of maritime insurance company Lloyds said the ship had met all safety requirements.

"The vessel was well equipped with all lifeboats and all her certificates were valid, " Nizam Siddiqui said.

He ruled out the possibility of a collision with another ship, saying the other vessel would have reported the incident.

Shipping expert Paul Beaver told the BBC that overloading should not have been a problem.

There was a possibility one or more of the vehicles the ship was transporting could have moved, particularly in bad weather, he said.

A sister ship of the al-Salam '98 sank in the Red Sea in October after a collision. Two people were killed and 40 injured.

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An Egyptian official speaks about the rescue operation

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