February 04, 2006

Nearer My God to Thee

News from Arabia:
Red Sea Ferry Survivors Say Captain Abandoned Ship
Published: February 5, 2006

SAFAGA, Egypt, Feb. 4 (Reuters) — Survivors of the Egyptian ferry that sank in the Red Sea said on Saturday that the captain had fled the burning ship by lifeboat and abandoned the nearly 1,400 passengers and crew members on board to their fate.

Rescue workers have recovered 195 bodies from the Red Sea, but about 800 more people, most of them Egyptian workers returning from Saudi Arabia, were still missing on Saturday.

About 400 survivors have been found since the ferry sank on Friday. The director of the Red Sea Ports Authority, Maj. Gen. Mahfouz Taha, said 378 survivors had come ashore on the Egyptian side of the sea. The Saudi authorities said they had picked up 22.

Some survivors, plucked from the sea or from lifeboats, said a fire broke out below decks on the ferry shortly after the vessel left the Saudi port of Duba on Thursday evening with 1,272 passengers and a crew of about 100.

The ship began to list but the crew continued to sail out into the Red Sea rather than turn back to the Saudi port, the survivors told reporters in the Egyptian port of Safaga, where the ferry was scheduled to land on Friday.

One of the Egyptian survivors, Shahata Ali, said the passengers had told the captain about the fire, but he and his crew told them not to worry.

"We were wearing life jackets, but they told us there was nothing wrong, told us to take them off and they took away the life jackets," he added, speaking to Reuters Television. "Then the boat started to sink and the captain took a boat and left."

Khaled Hassan, another survivor, said, "The captain was the first to leave and we were surprised to see the boat sinking."

Other survivors also reported that the crew had played down the gravity of the situation and withheld life jackets.

"There was a fire but the crew stopped the people from putting on life jackets so that it wouldn't cause a panic," said Abdel Raouf Abdel Nabi, one of the survivors.

Nader Galal Abdel Shafi, another passenger on the same rescue boat recalled: "There was a blaze down below. The crew said 'Don't worry, we will put it out.' When things got really bad, the crew just went off in the lifeboats and left us on board."

The 35-year-old Egyptian ship, Al Salam Boccaccio 98, sailing under a Panamanian flag, was traveling a regular route between Duba, Saudi Arabia, and Safaga, Egypt, and was carrying mostly Egyptian workers returning home for vacation. Also among the passengers, an Egyptian security official said, were 100 Saudis and one Canadian. At least 20 of the passengers were children.

An official at Al Salaam Maritime Transport Company, which owned the ship, said the captain, identified as Sayyed Omar, was still unaccounted for.

To read the rest of the article click HERE. (Registration required!)
While I am writing this, European embassies, consulates and the offices of other European organisations are burning all over the Middle East. I will spare you and myself one of the flip jokes saying that the rescue teams were too busy rallying against the Danish Mohammed-cartoons to do their job. This is not a time for flippancy.

I am, however, proud to be a daughter of the West. I am proud and happy that our God allows (no: asks!) us to have music and dance and that little hack musicians can -- and do -- become heroes.

Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
E'en tho' it be a cross
That raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be,
: Nearer, my God, to Thee! :
Nearer to Thee!

Näher mein Gott zu Dir,
Näher zu Dir!
Drückt mich auch Kummer hier,
Drohet man mir,
Soll doch trotz Kreuz und Pein,
Dies meine Losung sein:
Näher mein Gott zu Dir,
Näher zu Dir!

Mon Dieu, plus près de toi
plus près de toi,
c'est le cri de ma foi,
plus près de toi.
Dans le jour où l'épreuve
déborde comme un fleuve,
garde-moi plus près de toi,
plus près de toi.

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