The Al-Salaam Boccaccio, while it has a cruise ship appearance, is actually a ferry, that had 1318 passengers, and 96 crew onboard and 220 cars onboard on February 2, 2006 when the ship caught fire and sunk. In the end, 944 were missing or found dead after no SOS was sent out.
Al-Salaam Boccacci left the Saudi port of Dubah at 7 p.m and was due in Egypt's port of Safaga at 3 a.m.
It was orgiinally suspected weather played a part in the sinking. There were high winds and a sandstorm overnight on Saudi Arabia’s west coast. But, survivor accounts said the ship had a fire, and that began the chain of events.
After the fire began, the ship began to list, but the ship did not turn around and return to port, it continued out to sea ablaze.
According to passenger accounts, the captain, Sayyed Omar, jumped ship before the passengers, after the fire started. There were not enough lifeboats for all passengers to leave the ship to safety.
Passengers said they told the captain there was a fire, and they had they had their life jackets on, but were told not to worry about the fire below deck by the captain, and were told to remove their life jackets.
The crew then took the life jackets away from the passengers. Right after that, the captain got into a lifeboat, and sailed away.
Next,the crew got into life boats, and sailed away as well, leaving passengers to fend for themselves.
Ahmed Elew, an Egyptian in his 20s, said he went to the ship’s crew to report the fire and they told him to help with the water hoses to put it out. At one point there was an explosion, he said.
When the ship began sinking, Elew said he jumped into the water and swam for several hours. He said he saw one lifeboat overturn because it was overloaded with people. He eventually got into another lifeboat.
The owners of the ferry Mamdouh Ismail and his son Amr, an executive in the ferry company, fled to London from Egypt right after the ferry sunk. An international arrest warrant has been issued for them.