1,000+ of Saudi Arabia's guest workers feared drowned

Saturday, February 4, 2006

An aging ferry deemed unsafe sank in the Red Sea on Friday with about 1400 people on board, mostly Egyptians who travel back and forth to Saudi Arabia to work as guest workers.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's spokesman, Suleiman Awad, said there were not enough lifeboats, and questions were raised about the safety of the old ship that had 220 cars on it as well as the passengers. "The speed with which the ship sank and the lack of sufficient lifeboats indicate there was some deficiency," Awad said.

"It's a roll-on, roll-off ferry, and there is big question mark over the stability of this kind of ship," said David Osler of Lloyds List. "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."

Tens of thousands of poor Egyptians work in Persian Gulf countries for years to earn money. They travel by ship as it is a cheaper option than flying.