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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 February 2006, 07:34 GMT
Ferry survivors describe ordeal
Survivor arrives in Hurghada
Many survivors were visibly affected by the cold
Survivors from the Egyptian ferry which sank in the Red Sea on Friday have been describing their ordeal.

Some of the 300 people rescued said they spent more than 20 hours floating in rubber dinghies or clinging on to life rings before they were pulled out.

More than 900 people are still missing 24 hours after the al-Salam Boccaccio '98 went down.

Hundreds of anxious relatives spent the night at Safaga, the Egyptian port where the ferry was to dock on Friday.

It was like the Titanic on fire

They have been shouting at police guarding the gates of the port, angry at delays in receiving information from the authorities after the ferry capsized.

Officials say up to 300 survivors have been pulled from the sea.

The ferry was carrying about 1,400 people.

'Smoke from the engines'

Survivors started coming ashore at the Egyptian port of Hurghada on Saturday morning.

Many were barefoot and shivering, and were taken straight to hospital. Some were on stretchers.

They said the ferry began listing to one side shortly after leaving Duba port in Saudi Arabia, but sailed on for two hours, before listing further and then rapidly sinking.

Many are critical of the crew. One said if they had done more to help there would have been more survivors.

They spoke of a fire which burned for hours.

"It was like the Titanic on fire," one survivor told AP.

"Two hours after our departure from [the Saudi port of] Duba thick smoke started to come out of the engines," 34-year-old Egyptian Raafat al-Sayyed said, quoted by AFP news agency.

Relatives wait for news at Egypt's Safaga port
Relatives' anxiety turned to anger over the lack of information

He said the crew told passengers to go up onto the bridge so they could extinguish the blaze as the ship started to list dangerously.

"Everything happened very quickly. In less than 10 minutes the ship went upside down and we were in the water," he added.

He said there had not been enough life vests to go round.

Elew, an Egyptian in his 20s, told AP he jumped overboard after seeing that the ship was sinking and swam for hours.

He said he saw one lifeboat sink before getting into another.

"Around me people were dying and sinking," he said.

'Unbearable' wait

Another said they had been ignored as they awaited rescue.

This is a dirty government, may God burn their hearts as they burned mine - I want my brother. I have no-one else in this life
Sister of passenger

"They left us in the water for 24 hours. A helicopter came above us and circled, we would signal and they ignored us," he said.

Many relatives waiting in Safaga shared the survivors' anger.

The BBC's Ian Pannell is at the port. He described the scene as "anxious and tense".

"Nobody is telling anything, it's unbearable," says Said Ali Said, from southern Egypt whose cousin was on the boat. "Just tell me if he is dead or alive."

"This is a dirty government, may God burn their hearts as they burned mine," one woman told AP. "I want my brother. I have no-one else in this life."

"Where are the corpses? Where are they taking the survivors?" Gadir Mohammed shouted.

See the scenes at the Egyptian port where the ferry was due to dock

'Many dead' as Egypt ferry sinks
03 Feb 06 |  Middle East
Possible causes of ferry disaster
03 Feb 06 |  Middle East
Country profile: Egypt
22 Dec 05 |  Country profiles
Shipping disasters timeline
03 Feb 06 |  Middle East

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