CAIRO: Three sailors perished and 17 are still missing after a cargo ship sank off the Red Sea coast of Egypt on Monday shortly after leaving port, a maritime official said.
The cargo ship under the flag of St. Kitts and Nevis sank in bad weather, an Egyptian official said.
Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Deraz, head of the Egyptian Red Sea Port Authority, told AP that the Caribbean islands-flagged Ibn Battuta sent a distress message early Monday while it was sailing near the Egyptian port city of Safaga in the Red Sea.
Six people were rescued when the 5,600-ton Ibn Battuta went down in the sea about 35 nautical miles off the port of Safaga, a port official told AFP.
He said two vessels and helicopters were involved in the search for the missing members of the crew, which include Sudanese, Indians and Pakistanis.
The ship was carrying a cargo of 6,500 tons (5,900 metric tons) of silica sand meant for manufacturing glass and had set sail from the port of Abu Dhunaima, near Safaga, on its way to the United Arab Emirates, the official said, without giving details about the vessel s ownership.
Details were sketchy and Egypt s official MENA news agency initially said the Ibn Battuta was Cypriot-flagged.
The ownership of the Ibn Battuta was not immediately clear, but Deraz said there were indications it was owned by an Iraqi.
In February 2006, a ferry sank as it was traveling to Safaga from Saudi Arabia, drowning 1,000 passengers in one of the deadliest disasters in modern maritime history.
In 1991, another Egyptian ferry sank in the Red Sea en route between Jeddah and Safaga, leading to the loss of nearly 500 lives.
Ibn Battuta was a 14th century traveler from present-day Morocco whose journeys encompassed most of the Islamic world and beyond. -Agencies