Inquiry opens into Egypt's worst ever shipping disaster

Daily Star Egypt Staff
2 Min Read

CAIRO: The inquiry into the February 3 sinking of the ferry Al-Salam 98, which went down with the loss of more than 1,000 lives, opened Monday in the Red Sea port of Safaga, a legal source said. The hearing began in the absence of the main accused, Mamdouh Ismail. He owns Al-Salam, the firm which operated the 36-year-old passenger ferry between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Ismail, a member of the senate, left Egypt for Britain after the sinking – the worst disaster in Egyptian maritime history. Egypt has issued a summons against him through Interpol, and his assets have been frozen. Two more of the six accused, Ismail s son and an Al-Salam company official, were also absent. Two Al-Salam company directors and the captain of the ferry Saint Catherine, accused of not going to the aid of a ship in distress, were present when the hearing opened. In a report published in April, a parliamentary commission of inquiry blamed Al-Salam for the disaster, saying the firm continued to operate the ferry despite serious defects in the vessel. It also said the government failed to manage the crisis adequately in the days after the sinking. Ismail has denied responsibility for the disaster, and accused the captain of the Al-Salam 98, who went down with his ship, of overestimating the crew s ability to fight a fire which broke out on board. Some 1,000 people died when the ferry went down between the Saudi port of Duba and Safaga in Egypt. The passengers were mostly Egyptian itinerant workers, some of whom were bringing months , if not years , worth of savings home. AFP

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