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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 February 2006, 15:20 GMT
Press calls Egypt to account
Relatives grieve at the dock of Safaga harbour
More than 800 hundred passengers are still missing

Newspapers in Egypt have launched a scathing attack on the authorities and the owners of the ferry which sank in the Red Sea on Friday with heavy loss of life.

Accusations of ineptitude over the rescue mission vie with allegations of corruption, with angry commentators pointing to the poor safety record of the Al-Salam company.

"There is an unpleasant stench coming from the accidents involving ships carrying the Al-Salam name," writes Majdi Mihana in Al-Misri al-Yawm.

He asks why the government was quick "to deny or rule out any negligence by the owner of the ship or its representative".

"First it was Al-Salam 90, then Al-Salam 95 and now Al-Salam 98," Mihana writes, adding that "if responsibility is not determined this time, then such accidents bearing the Al-Salam name will continue".

Do one million Egyptians have to die in accidents caused by negligence before the government resigns
Al-Misri al-Yawm editor-in-chief

Separately, Al-Misri al-Yawm editor-in-chief Majdi al-Jalad fumes that "passengers had to wrestle against death, its waves and sharks and the winter cold for more than 12 hours before rescue teams arrived in visible confusion".

"As we made no effort to rescue the passengers from 2300 on Thursday to noon on Friday, how can we ask the raging sea and hungry sharks to be more merciful to our people?" asks Mr Al-Jalad.

He continues: "It is time to ask exactly who owns and has shares in the Al-Salam Company, which monopolises maritime transport with its ships and ferries that have killed hundreds in a series of accidents in recent years. Is it a state official, as some say?"

"Do one million Egyptians have to die in accidents caused by negligence before the government resigns or even admits its full or partial responsibility?" he concludes.

'Battered ships'

The editor-in-chief of the independent weekly Al-Usbu'a says many people are asking: "Where were officials during the time that there was no contact with the ships?"

"Neither the company nor official sources bothered to search or give answers about why communication was lost and whether there was anything wrong," accuses Mustafa Bakri.

If no passenger vessel should be more than 25 years old, why was the sunken ship allowed to sail?
Rose al-Yusuf

Mr Bakri goes on to accuse the Al-Salam company of "specialising in purchasing battered ships from Greece and other places and using the Panamanian flag to avoid Egyptian regulations".

The chairman of the state-owned daily Rose al-Yusuf , Karam Jabr, criticises the authorities for allowing an old ship to continue operating.

"If no passenger vessel should be more than 25-years-old, why was the sunken ship allowed to sail even though it was more than 36-years-old? And why was it allowed for it to add two more decks?"

'Cheap lives'

He also queries why the Al-Salam company should be permitted to "monopolise the route between Duba and Safaga... who is benefiting from this?"

Mr Jabr calls for an urgent investigation into the accident, because "people's lives should never be this cheap".

This is carelessness by companies that only seek profit
A commentator in the state owned Al-Akhbar also expresses concern about "the regulations and systems used in operating these vessels, especially after the repeated accidents".

"What is happening to our ships and ferries, especially those operating in the Red Sea transporting our pilgrims?"

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

Country profile: Egypt
22 Dec 05 |  Country profiles
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02 Sep 05 |  Middle East

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