A ferry with 1,230 Egyptians on board caught fire on Thursday shortly after setting sail from the Jordanian port of Aqaba, Egyptian maritime sources said. © - AFP
Last updated: November 3, 2011

Fire on Egyptian ferry with 1,230 aboard

Rescue services evacuated more than 1,200 passengers from a burning ferry in the Red Sea on Thursday, with one Jordanian dying after jumping into the sea, Jordan's civil defence spokesman told AFP.

By afternoon, only the captain and three crew members remained aboard the stricken ship.

"The fire is now 80 percent under control; 813 passengers have (already) been transferred and 400 others are now being transferred towards the Egyptian port of Nuweiba," said Egyptian Transport Minister Ali Zine al-Abidin.

Egypt's official news agency Mena said: "The ship was carrying 1,234 passengers, of whom 940 were Egyptian."

The fire broke out as the ferry was some 15 nautical miles from the Jordanian port of Aqaba, Egyptian sources said. The vessel was headed for Nuweiba and as the blaze erupted passengers were ordered to take to life rafts.

A tug and a second ferry were dispatched from Nuweiba to join the rescue, the sources added.

In Cairo, Egypt's ruling military said: "The armed forces quickly put to work everything that was necessary, from the navy to the Egyptian air force, to save the ferry and its passengers."

Speaking of the fatality, Jordan's civil defence spokesman Farid Shareh said: "The man drowned after jumping from the blazing ferry, and his body was recovered by rescue services.

"An identity check enabled us to identify the man as Jordanian as all the Egyptian passengers had been accounted for."

In addition "some people were suffering from breathing difficulties and have been rescued," the spokesman said.

Initially, Hussein Sawub, director of the Al-Jisr Al-Arabi company which operates the ferry, said there had been no casualties "in the fire which broke out on the container deck."

Later, Shareh said "all passengers have been evacuated and only the captain and three crew members," remain on board.

Egyptian sources had said earlier that all the passengers were Egyptian but Russian tour operator TEZ TOUR told the RIA Novosti news agency that "there could be no more than 50 tourists from Russia" on board.

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