Sunday, February 05, 2006

Transcending photo

I'm reticent to include this picture after yesterdays somewhat anti-American post....I'm not anti American just anti-current political direction...

I had to include this photo as I think it amazingly captures the moment of a relative sitting on the dock waiting.

I think it transcends global views regardless of where you are coming from.


Red Sea Ferry Survivors Say Captain Abandoned Ship

Ben Curtis/Associated Press
Relatives of passengers from the sunken Egyptian ferry prayed and wept as they sat on the dock at Safaga, awaiting the return of rescue boats.
Full Article (I've actually copied the entire article here as it fell into the paid for archives of NY times).

SAFAGA, Egypt, Feb. 4 — Within hours of leaving shore, as smoke began to fill the upper decks of the ferry and the crew tried desperately to calm passengers, it became clear to many on board that something had gone terribly wrong, survivors said on Saturday.
Passengers begged the captain and his crew to turn the ship around, survivors said, but the ferry continued into the choppy waters of the Red Sea on its way from Saudi Arabia to Safaga, Egypt. By 2 a.m. Friday, the ship had sunk, killing at least 180 people and possibly hundreds more in what may prove to be Egypt's worst maritime accident in years.
Rescue workers on Saturday continued the search for survivors, but hopes dimmed for most of the 1,400 passengers and crew members who had been on board.
By Saturday evening, only 389 survivors had been rescued by the Egyptian Navy, and more than 180 bodies had been pulled from the sea. About 800 more people, most of them Egyptian workers returning from Saudi Arabia, were still missing.
The 35-year-old ship, Al Salam Boccaccio 98, flying under a Panamanian flag, left the Saudi port of Daba shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday bound for Safaga, 120 miles across the Red Sea. Sometime around 2 a.m. another ferry heading in the opposite direction reported seeing lifeboats in the water.
Egyptian maritime authorities said Saturday that the catastrophe had been caused by a fire that initially broke out in one of the vehicles below deck and spread throughout the boat, eventually causing it to capsize and sink about 100 miles from the Egyptian shore.
At Hurghada military hospital, where most of the survivors were being treated, many recounted how things began to unravel shortly after the ship left port, when the fire began to spread.
"Two hours after we left, smoke started coming out," said Nazih Zaki, 27, who was returning home from his job as a cook in Saudi Arabia. "They tried to put it out but it kept going. The crew told us it was nothing, but then they got us life vests to wear. We stayed cruising six hours at sea, and then the boat started to tip."
Water began flooding the ship, and the vessel soon listed, lurched and began to sink, Mr. Zaki said.
"The ship is five stories tall but it took less than 15 minutes for it to go down," he said. "Then there was nothing at all, no rescue, nothing."
As he swam in the dead of night, Mr. Zaki said, he grasped onto a life raft and pulled himself in, then floated with others for about 24 hours before they were rescued by the Egyptian Navy. An Egyptian Navy official, speaking on Egyptian television, said the first survivor was picked out of the water about 3 p.m. on Friday, more than 13 hours after the ship went down.
Other survivors described a tense standoff between the captain and many on the ship, as passengers and even some crew members began demanding the ship be turned around and return to Saudi Arabia as smoke poured out of the lower deck.
"By midnight there was serious fire on the bottom and smoke rising up to the fourth floor, and they kept saying we have control over the situation.," said Nabil Taghyan, 27, who survived by wearing a life jacket and boarding an inflatable raft.
Despite pleas to turn back, the captain insisted it would be better to steam ahead to Safaga, Mr. Taghyan said.
Mr. Taghyan said he ultimately saw the captain and crew flee using the lifeboats, while some passengers in life jackets tried to hang on to the ship and the debris. "The captain took the first speed boat, even though he should go last," Mr. Taghyan said. "There was yelling and screaming and people dying and there were people dead in their life vests, and there were huge waves."
The head of Al Salaam Maritime Transport Company, the ferry operator, Mamdouh Ismail, told Egyptian television on Friday: "The weather was especially bad. The wind was blowing at 65 miles."
The stories from survivors, however, raised tempers, as hundreds of family members thronged the gates of Hurghada's general hospital and thousands of others held a vigil outside the port of Safaga. As the day waned, quiet frustration erupted into bouts of anger, as many blamed the government and the ship's owners for an accident they argued could have been prevented.
"The government should resign when something like this happens," shouted Salem Ibrahim Ashry, 30, who stood outside the hospital all of Saturday asking for any details about his cousin Atef Hamdoun al-Sayyid, who worked in Saudi Arabia. "Look at these people who have been sitting here for two days. They still aren't able to guide us or tell us anything."
Throughout the day, a hospital official came out to read a list of survivors who were being treated, reciting just a few names at a time. The crowd would then sigh in frustration once all the names were read.
A similar scene played out at the Safaga port, where many had arrived Friday and continued to wait, growing increasingly angry at the lack of information. At one point, family members scuffled with police officers as a rumor that a boatload of survivors was headed into shore caused many to try to get past the cordon to get a glimpse.
Abdel Salam Shoeib, 32, stood all day waiting for news of his sister, Fatima Shoeib, who was nine months pregnant and was traveling home to Egypt to give birth.
"We are people suffering a calamity," he said. "They should feel for us, be concerned and provide a place for us to sit and wait. They are covering our eyes. We are like the dead waiting for the dead."
In a brief speech on Egyptian television on Saturday night, President
Hosni Mubarak expressed his condolences to victims' families and promised the search for survivors would continue. Mr. Mubarak also visited survivors at the Hurghada military hospital.
"The truth is we have done everything we can do," the transportation minister, Muhammad Mansour, said on Egyptian television.

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