Probe confirms state role in ferry disaster

Daily News Egypt
4 Min Read

Agence France-Presse CAIRO: An Egyptian probe into the sinking of a ferry that killed more than 1,400 people in February confirmed Wednesday its initial findings which accused the government of negligence and incompetence. The parliamentary investigating commission accused the Egyptian Authority for Maritime Safety of negligence in applying maritime safety measures … especially regarding the number of passengers on board and lifeboats. The report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, criticized the incompetence of the search and rescue operations following the sinking on February 3. It said the ferry sank at 1:30 a.m., but the first distress signal was not received until 3:09 a.m. Defense ministry helicopters and boats arrived at the scene at 10:47 a.m., seven hours and 38 minutes after the first distress call, the report said. The commission considers the government entirely responsible for the negligence and laxity of the search and rescue operations. The report also blamed the owner of the ferry, Mamdouh Ismail, for violating international maritime regulations. The probe s preliminary report, which was published on April 19, said that the circumstances of the accident pointed to a hideous image of corruption in a utility related to people s lives. It said that the Al-Salam company, which owned the ferry, continued to operate it despite serious defects that made it unfit to navigate. This points to the existence of a malicious collusion between the company and certain officials within the Egyptian Authority for Maritime Safety that led to disregarding instructions. The Al-Salam Boccaccio 98 sank in the middle of the Red Sea with more than 1,400 people on board on February 3, in what was one of the worst maritime tragedies in recent years. The preliminary report also charged that the government had failed to manage the crisis adequately in the days after the sinking, which saw the families of the missing vent their anger as they waited for news on the fate of their relatives. The ship also violated international law regarding the number of passengers, the report said, adding that it was registered to carry a maximum of 1,168 passengers, but had 1,400 aboard, an excess of 232 people, at the time of the sinking. The company had two other boats capable of reaching the ferry when it was still afloat but its owners did not deploy them immediately and only ordered a search operation after the Al-Salam had gone under. The ship was sailing from the Saudi port of Duba and carried mostly Egyptian itinerant workers, some of whom were bringing months, if not years , worth of savings home. Ismail had 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. Ismail, a government-appointed member of the upper house and the ruling National Democratic Party, was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in March and his assets were frozen a month later. In June, he paid LE 330 million ($57 million) into a fund to compensate victims of the disaster. AFP

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