Egyptian ferry catches fire; 1,229 rescued



Egyptian ferry catches fire; 1,229 rescued Cairo: A Jordanian man died while 1,229 passengers aboard an Egyptian ferry had a lucky escape on Thursday after the vessel caught fire near the Jordanian port of Aqaba in the Red Sea.

The fire broke out some 15 nautical miles from Aqaba on Pella ferry, which is owned by Arab Bridge Maritime Company, Chairman of the Red Sea Authority Abdel Kader Gaballah said.

A Jordanian man died after jumping from the burning ferry. His body has been recovered by the rescue teams, local media reports said.

The passengers, who were coming to this country from Aqaba, were mainly Egyptian expatriates returning home from the Gulf.

Eighty per cent of the fire had been contained, Egypt's Transport Minister Ali Zein El Abidine said.

Some 813 passengers were safely moved to Nuweibah port and the remaining are in the process of being transferred, he said.

So far, the cause of the fire has not been determined, the minister said.

Naval units came to the rescue of passengers who escaped the fire on lifeboats. Some others just jumped into the water to escape the fire.

A vessel was sent from Aqaba to rescue the passengers. A giant ship from a naval base in South Sinai was also dispatched.

Preliminary reports said the fire erupted in the vessel's garage that contained five trucks.

Egypt's Red Sea port authority had received a distress call from the ferry's crew, following which military aircraft were sent for the rescue operation.

Passengers on board the ferry were evacuated to small lifeboats in order to carry them to Al Dora port on the Jordan-Saudi Arabia border, Foreign Ministry spokesman Amr Rushdi said.

PTI