Disaster ferry had no permit to operate as party cruiser

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At least two British children were orphaned by the disaster which killed 57 people, when the Al-Dana toppled over off the coast of Bahrain on Thursday evening after being hired for a party.

As the first names of the British dead were released yesterday, the authorities revealed that the replica dhow only had a licence to operate as a floating restaurant. Its owner had failed to complete his application to operate as a pleasure vessel, said a spokesman for Bahrain's Interior Ministry.

His disclosure came after Kim Howells, the Foreign Office minister, said "it was an accident which should not have happened".

The British victims included a married couple, Jason Brett and Lucinda Lamb, and a father, Stephen Grady. Mr Grady's wife, Stephanie, is pregnant with their second child.

Another British victim, Scott Belch, 33, and his German wife, Sandy, died - only six weeks after their wedding. Mr Belch's parents, Jeff and Sandra, said their 6ft son was a "big lovable bear".

"Civil engineering was always what he wanted to do," said Mr Belch Snr.

"He was a big guy, kind, thoughtful, generous. He was so looking forward to being a dad."

The other named British victims were David Evans, 56; Will Nolan, 50; Stephen Grady, 42; and Chris Braysher, 47, who had dual German nationality. They worked for Murray and Roberts, a construction company. Ivor Palmer, a friend of Mr Nolan, said: "The family is very upset and distraught." Mr Nolan's widow, Nicola, survived the disaster.

The dhow capsized on Thursday night with 126 people on board. Most passengers were employees of construction companies building the Bahrain World Trade Centre towers, and were celebrating the end of a four-year contract.

Tariq al-Hassan, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said two people were still thought to be missing and the search was continuing. "We have towed the boat to shore and searched it and made sure no one else was trapped," he said. "Now the state of the boat is being investigated."

One of the party's waitresses claimed partygoers had ignored warnings not to overcrowd the upper deck, where music was being played. Nenette Salgado, from the Philippines, said the vessel was already looking unsteady before the top deck became crowded with dancers.

She said: "I couldn't control the guests any more and so there were many people on the upper level." Ms Salgado said she had told the captain she was worried about safety, but was overruled.

A British survivor, Simon Hill, said he and others lucky enough to have been thrown clear had clung to the up-turned hull as passengers inside tried in vain to smash windows. The dhow capsized "in a matter of seconds" after listing "suddenly and without warning".

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