A horrific story out of Egypt:
An Egyptian passenger ship carrying about 1,300 people sank in the Red Sea overnight during bad weather, and rescue ships arriving at the scene Friday pulled dozens of bodies from the water, an official said. About 30 survivors were rescued, some in lifeboats.
An Egyptian Embassy spokesman told the British Broadcasting Corp. that “dozens of bodies of victims” had been pulled from the choppy waters between Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The 35-year-old ship, Al-Salaam Boccaccio 98, went down 40 miles off the Egyptian port of Hurghada, the head of the Egyptian Maritime Authority, Mahfouz Taha Marzouk, told The Associated Press. The cause was unknown.
Britain’s top naval officer said he had diverted a warship to the north Red Sea site and it will arrive within two days.
But Ayman al-Kaffas, a spokesman for the Egyptian Embassy in London, told the BBC that “a massive search-and-rescue effort” was underway, and “dozens of bodies of victims” had been pulled from the water.
“We have spotted several lifeboats with live passengers that we are trying to get to,” al-Kaffas said. “It’s a challenging operation due to the bad weather conditions.”
There were high winds and a sandstorm overnight on Saudi Arabia’s west coast, where the ship departed from. The ship sailed from the Saudi port of Dubah at 7 p.m. Thursday night and was scheduled to arrive at Egypt’s port of Safaga _ 120 miles away _ eight hours later.
The ship disappeared from radar screens shortly after sailing, maritime officials in Suez said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
Helicopters sent up soon after the vessel disappeared saw bodies floating in the water and at least one lifeboat carrying three people, Egyptian maritime officials said.
Nizam Siddiqui of Lloyd’s of London said he had ruled out a collision or terrorist attack as the cause of the accident because the area was well-patrolled.
“The rough weather must have been the main factor for bringing this vessel down,” he told the BBC from Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, adding that the ship was “very well-maintained.”
The agent for the ship in Saudi Arabia, Farid al-Douadi, said the vessel was in good condition. The passengers were mostly Egyptians but included Saudis, Sudanese and other nationalities.
Marzouk said the ship _ built in 1971 and renovated in 1990 in an Egyptian shipyard _ was carrying 1,318 people, including a crew of 96. It also was carrying about 220 vehicles.
So far it looks from various reports like they have saved a little over 100 people out of the 1,318.
Let’s hope the rescue efforts are more effective than they sound like they’ve been so far.