Jordanian drowns to death as he jumps ship to avoid fire
Rescue services evacuated 1,230 passengers onto life rafts from a burning ferry in the Red Sea on Thursday, with one Jordanian dying after jumping into the sea, Jordan’s civil defense spokesman told AFP.
By afternoon, only the captain and three crew members remained aboard the stricken ship.
The blaze had broken out shortly after setting sail from the Jordanian port of Aqaba, Egyptian maritime sources said.
The mostly-Egyptian passengers were forced to escape on lifeboats when the fire broke out as a rescue operation was launched, an official from Egypt's Red Sea ports authority told Reuters. The official said there were no immediate reports of casualties.
The Egyptian Transport Minister Ali Zain el-Abdin had earlier said that about 1,000 passengers have been rescued and about 80 percent of the fire is under control.
The dead man “drowned after jumping from the burning ferry,” Jordan’s civil defense spokesman Farid Shareh said.
“His body has been recovered by the rescue teams,” Shareh added.
“An identity check enabled us to identify the man as Jordanian as all the Egyptian passengers had been accounted for.”
In addition “some people were suffering from breathing difficulties and have been rescued,” the spokesman said.
The rescued passengers have now been taken to the nearest Jordanian port, Dora, to wait for another ferry to take them to Egypt, an Egyptian port official told The Associated Press.
The blaze erupted on the Pella, owned by Arab Bridge Maritime Company, when it was 15 nautical miles off Aqaba, the official said. The ferry was headed for the Egyptian port of Nuweiba initially.
The official said the passengers were mainly Egyptian expatriate workers returning home from neighboring states.
Egyptian Transport Minister Ali Zain el-Abdin told state television he was awaiting confirmation that the remaining 400 or so passengers had been safely transferred as passengers were ordered to take to life rafts. A tug and a second ferry were also dispatched from Nuweiba to join the rescue.
The director of the Al-Jisr Al-Arabi company, which operates the ferry, said there were no casualties, AFP reported.
“There were no casualties in the fire which broke out on the container deck,” Hussein Sawub told Jordan’s official Petra news agency.
Jordan’s civil defence spokesman, Farid Shareh, also said there were no casualties in the fire, adding that the evacuation of the ferry was nearly complete.
A security official in Aqaba told Petra that by late morning just 50 passengers and the 80 crew members were still on board.
Egyptian sources had said that all the passengers were Egyptian but Russian tour operator TEZ TOUR told the RIA Novosti news agency that “there could be no more than 50 tourists from Russia” on the vessel.
Egypt has seen occasional accidents involving its ferries on the Red Sea, In Feb. 2006, about 1,000 people — mostly Egyptian workers returning home from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations — died when fire broke out on their vessel amid botched rescue attempts by the Egyptians.