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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 February 2006, 10:20 GMT
Quiet anger as relatives wait in agony
By Martin Patience
BBC News website, Safaga

The loudspeaker crackled into life and the crowd surrounding Egypt's Safaga port inched as close as they could to its barricaded entrance.

A roll-call of survivors was about to be read out.

Relative holds up photo of nephew
Radwan Sideeq is waiting for news of his nephew

For the hundreds of concerned families and friends, many who have waited here since yesterday afternoon, it was a moment of agonising intensity.

Wearing traditional Arab galabiyyas, some of the overwhelmingly male crowd stood with their heads bowed and others stood with their ears cocked to the sky, willing good news.

All stood in silence.

"Ahmed Salah Din, Abdel Alazeem...," crackled the speaker, as the names were read of some of the survivors just brought into port aboard a naval frigate.

"Mohammad Saleh..."

One middle-aged woman wearing a white hijab let out a yelp of ecstasy.

She jumped up and down before barging her way to the front of the crowd.

Her husband, father or son, was safe.

More waiting

But the majority of the crowd stood in silence.

There has been no information, no water, no food, nothing for the relatives waiting here
Hosni Mohammad
Passenger's uncle

For them there was no news, good or bad.

Once the last name on the list had been read out, small groups broke off from the main crowd, resigned to more hours of waiting.

For many there is a quiet anger growing about the lack of information available to them.

Hosni Mohammad, 35, has been here now for 14 hours, waiting in vain for news of his nephew, who was travelling back from Saudi Arabia for a holiday in his native Egypt.

"The authorities have done nothing," he said. "There has been no information, no water, no food, nothing for the relatives waiting here."

The only thing Mr Mohammad says he is sure of is that he will wait at the port until he learns of his nephew's fate.

Another man criticised the Egyptian government for being able to organise riot police at the port while leaving relatives in the dark.

Doctor amazed

For one man the lack of news was too much to bear.

"He's dead, he's dead", he shouted at the policemen in apparent reference to his missing loved one.

Distraught, the man was led away by the comforting arm of a relative.

Occasionally an ambulance will leave the port entrance carrying survivors.

The crowd surges towards these vehicles, trying to see who is inside.

Survivors have been taken to local hospitals. In the nearby town of Hurghada, a hospital doctor treating some of the passengers said he was amazed they had survived the ordeal.

Survivors can be seen hanging out of the hospital windows, waving to crowds gathered around the building.

But back at the Safaga port, there is no such joy.

People stand and wait, hoping to hear the crackle of the speaker and the names of their loved ones to be read out.




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