Crowd attacks offices of disaster ferry company

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of relatives of passengers drowned on a Red Sea ferry attacked the Safaga offices of the owners in Egypt today, throwing its furniture into the street.

They later tried to storm a hospital after it displayed photographs of the bodies retrieved from the sea.

In the port of Hurghada, about 40 miles to north, a crowd outside the local hospital became angry when a line of police officers displayed photographs of those who had drowned on the Al-Salaam Boccaccio 98, which went down on Friday morning with the loss of about 1,000 lives.

The crowd broke through the security barriers erected in front of the hospital, but did not manage to get through the gates and enter the building. It appeared as if the relatives wanted to see the bodies of their loved ones in the hospital morgue.

Relatives in Hurghada and Safaga ports have complained bitterly that the authorities have been slow to declare who drowned and who survived the tragedy.

In Safaga this morning, a mob broke into the offices of El Salam Maritime, the ferry's owners, smashing the windows and throwing everything out into the street.

The rioters took a large photo of one of the company's ferries and burned it in the middle of the road. They also tore down the company's signboard from the front of the building.

Riot police who were guarding the nearby port gates arrived on the scene and quickly dispersed the crowd. Afterward, one civilian was seen holding his head in pain. It was not immediately known how he was injured.

Some rioters set fire to tyres on roads leading to the port, effectively closing the roads. But firefighters arrived and extinguished the fires.

The Al-Salaam sank in the dark hours of Friday morning while sailing across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia to the Egyptian port of Safaga with more than 1,400 passengers and crew. Only 401 are known to have survived. Most of the passengers were low-income Egyptians returning from working in Saudi Arabia.

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