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July 28, 2008

Five of six accused over Egyptian ferry fire that killed over 1,000 are acquitted

Five of six accused over Egyptian ferry fire that killed over 1,000 are acquitted

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Egypt
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Five of the six defendants accused of manslaughter over the 2006 fire on board Egyptian ferry al-Salam Boccaccio 98 have been cleared of all charges. The February 3 fire and subsequent sinking killed 1,034 of around 1,400 passengers.

Mamdouh Ismail, owner of the al-Salam company, his son and three company executives were all cleared of manslaughter. Ismail is a member of parliament directly appointed by the president, and both he, his son and another of the executives were tried in absentia as they have left the country. They had all been charged with manslaughter stemming from safety violations on the ship.

Convicted was Salaheddin Gomaa, captain of nearby ferry Saint Catherine. He was jailed for six months after the court found he did not come to the stricken al-Salam 98′s aid. It found he “did not do his duty by failing to go to the rescue of victims,” and that he failed to show any compassion.

The last reported point where the al Salam Boccaccio 98 was observed by coastal radar.
Image: Rune.welsh.

The ship went down in the Red Sea near Egyptian port Safaga, where the trial was held, having departed earlier from Saudi Arabia’s Dhaba port. A parliamentary report balmed the disaster’s scale on the owners, as well as the government and Panama, the state where the ship was registered. The report said al-Salam had kept operating the ship “despite serious defects” with her, and that the government had “failed to manage the crisis adequately” in the following days.

It was found that the 36-year-old al-Salam 98′s safety documents were forged, that the ship’s extuinguishers and life rafts were not fit for purpose and that there were an inadequate number of winches to lower the rafts into the sea. However, the elder Ismail had put the blame on his ferry’s captain, who he claimed wrongly believed the crew could deal with the fire when it broke out. The captain was amongst the dead.

Ismail’s assets were frozen and a travel ban was imposed on him following the disaster, but both were lifted later that year after he paid E£300,000,000 (US$57,000,000) into a victim’s compensation fund. Many victims were poor Egyptian migrant workers, and some were bringing home savings accumulated over months or years.

The Misdemeanor Court’s acquittal of all except Gomaa — who was fined E£10,000 (US$1,887) — met with anger from relatives, who turned out en masse to hear the verdicts. One man told al-Jazeera “The day of the accident everybody saw that the ship was in bad shape and two years later they say the boat was in good shape. It doesn’t make sense. This is awful. My wife and children died and after two years everyone responsible is found to be innocent.”

Public prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud was also unhappy with the result. In a statement he said he intends to appeal the verdict and demand a retrial. He alleges serious “violations in documented records, corruption in investigation, shortcomings in validatings and arbitrary conclusions,” and cites these as his reasons for a retrial.



Related news

  • “400 Survivors rescued from ferry disaster” — Wikinews, February 5, 2006
  • “1,000+ of Saudi Arabia’s guest workers feared drowned” — Wikinews, February 4, 2006
  • Egyptian passenger ferry sinks in Red Sea” — Wikinews, February 4, 2006

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February 4, 2006

Egyptian passenger ferry sinks in Red Sea

Egyptian passenger ferry sinks in Red Sea

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Saturday, February 4, 2006

Location map of the accident

An investigation has been commenced by Egypt into the Friday sinking of one of El Salam’s passenger ferries in the Red Sea. M/V al-Salam Boccaccio 98 was carrying 1408, including many Egyptians returning from work in Saudi Arabia. The ship left from the port of Dubah in Saudi Arabia enroute to the port of Safaga in Egypt. On the west coast of Saudi Arabia during the night a sandstorm occurred due to high winds.

David Osler of Lloyd’s List has said of the ship that “It’s a roll-on, roll-off ferry, and there is big question mark over the stability of this kind of ship,” he continued and said that “It would only take a bit of water to get on board this ship and it would be all over. … The percentage of this type of ferry involved in this type of disaster is huge.”

Mamdouh Ismail, head of Al-Salaam Maritime Transport Company, stated that another one of El Salam’s ferries, Saint Catherine received a distress call from one of the lifeboats of the Boccaccio when it arrived in Dubah from Safaga. The Saint Catherine notified its company headquarters, and El Salam reported it to Egyptian authorities.

According to a statement given to the Associated Press by Ismail, the ferry was carrying 96 crew members, 1,200 Egyptians, and 112 other passengers. A Transport Ministry spokesman has stated that 314 people have been rescued. More than 185 bodies have been recovered from the sea according to an Egyptian police official who has requested anonymity.

Four rescue ships from Egypt arrived Friday afternoon, approximately ten hours after the sinking of the 35-year-old ferry in the night near the Egyptian port of Hurghada. Aid from Britain and the United States was initially refused. Later, both the British HMS Bulwark and the US P3-Orion maritime naval patrol aircraft were recalled, but due to its distance at the later time, the request for the return of the Bulwark was called off by Egypt.

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