Families of Egyptian ferry victims attack ship's offices, riot police respond with tear gas
The offices of El Salaam Maritime in the Egyptian port-city of Safaga were attacked on Monday by hundreds of relatives of victims of Friday's sunken Red Sea ferry tragedy. Some 1,000 are feared dead in the nightmarish accident, as only 195 bodies have been recovered so far from some 1,400 passengers, most of whom were poor Egyptian workers.
The company's signboard was torched along with a large photo of one of its ferries, while furniture from the office was thrown into the street, according to the AP. On Saturday, family members of victims threw stones at police.
Security forces were called in to calm the rioters, who blamed the Egyptian government of mishandling rescue efforts and not providing more information about the accident and its victims.
"If you don't have the bodies, at least give us (death) certificates and let us go. You have been torturing us for days," said Heshmat Mohammed Hassan, whose brother is missing.
The ferry, the Al Salam Boccaccio 98, which was traveling from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, sank off the Egyptian coast of the port of Hurghada.
After the ship began to sink, international offers to help, including from the United States, were turned down.
Only ten hours later did rescue workers reach the capsized ferry.
Meanwhile, many of the 401 survivors claimed that the ship's crew had been negligent, jumping into a lifeboat rather than staying with the ship and its passengers. Some said that as the severity of the situation on board increased, no direction was given to passengers by crewmembers.
Lawmakers claimed that the ferry's owner was responsible for similar disasters, and called for investigations. According to one publication, two other ferries owned by the same company had sunk in the past 10 years.
Although Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has since ordered an investigation into the incident, some newspapers have accused his government of wrongfully protecting the ship's owner, who they claim is close to a top official in the government.
© 2006 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)