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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 February 2006, 16:46 GMT
Egypt ferry survivors tell their story
While rescue teams continue the hunt for about 800 people missing after the Egyptian ferry disaster in the Red Sea, the BBC News website's Martin Patience meets two of the survivors.

Mohammed Ahmed, aged five

Survivor Mohammed Ahmed, aged 5
Mohammed survived, but some of his family remain missing

The last time Mohammed saw his father, Ahmed, was when Ahmed put him on a lifeboat and told him to wait.

More than 20 hours later, five-year-old Mohammed was fished from the water wearing a life ring.

The lifeboat Mohammed had been on with his sister, Rahma, capsized after being overloaded with passengers.

Until now, only Mohammed has been found, says his uncle Harun Mohammed.

Mohammed's father, mother, three-year-old sister and two-month-old baby brother are missing at sea.

Mohammed told his uncle that he saw a lot of smoke and was then put on the lifeboat by his father. He says that ferry then "broke".

After his lifeboat capsized, Mohammed says he does not remember anything.

At the Hurghada General hospital, where Mohammed arrived on Saturday, he plays with his silver plastic pistol.

He has cuts on his face, but his uncle insists he is in good health and not distressed.

Relatives fuss over him, kissing him and joking with him.

Mohammed's family were travelling back to their native Egypt when the ferry sunk.

The five-year-old's father, Ahmed, worked as a teacher in construction in the holy city of Medina.

After being rescued, Mohammed was initially taken to the hospital in Safaga before being transferred 30 miles to this hospital.

But for Mohammed's uncle the agony is not over.

All Mohammed's immediate family are missing and he has yet to tell his five-year-old nephew.

Mohammed Sherif Mustapha, 37, teacher

"I'm lucky to have survived," says Mohammed Mustapha from his hospital bed.

The 37-year-old says that after smoke started rising from the ferry's lower decks, passengers assembled on the top deck in the freezing cold.

But none of the passengers were instructed to put on life jackets, insists the English teacher.

He says he put on a life jacket, a decision that helped save his life. Other people were praying and some crying.

Mr Mustapha was returning to Cairo for a holiday during mid-term, from the school in Mecca where he teaches.

When the ferry started tipping on its side, Mr Mustapha slipped and smashed his head on the railings.

Mr Mustapha says women and children kept falling into the boat.

"People were dying on the boat," he says.

Battered by waves

When Mr Mustapha knew the boat was going to sink, he decided to jump into the water.

By chance, he landed beside a red life raft and clambered onto it.

But the life raft had a leak and was battered by waves, and the 30 passengers spent the next 15 hours bailing the raft out with their shoes.

After an Egyptian helicopter spotted the raft, the nearest ship was scrambled to rescue the passengers.

While Mr Mustapha rests in hospital, his anger at the shipping company is fierce.

"The owner of the shipping company is a criminal and he must be punished," he says.


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