5 dead in ferries collision in Rashid

Two ferries crossing the Nile River between the two coasts of Rashid and Kafr el-Sheikh collided, causing the death of at least five people, while about 80 went missing, sources on site said Friday.

According to witnesses, the two boats collided in the middle of the water, at some 100 meters from the shore of Rashid. One boat was broken into pieces, dispersing people on board.

Ferries are the main transportation means for people living in the villages of Metoubas in Kafr el-Sheikh to cross to the other shore of the Nile where they pursue most of their economic activities, as well as their purchases. On average, those eight-meter-boats carry on average 30 to 40 passengers.

“It was a horrible scene,” says Mohamed Shalaby, an accountant, whose 19-year-old son was on one of the crashed boats, heading back to his village in Metoubas. “My son knows how to swim and he relied on one of the wood pieces to take to the shore. But others could not swim… Thanks God he was saved, but this is all ridiculous. The boat drivers are kids and most probably their ferries are not licensed. That is why they fled into a third boat when the collision happened and escaped.”

Mohamed el-Zuheiry, an employee in an electricity company from a village in Metoubas, told Al-Masry Al-Youm the coastal guard divers did not want to swim to find the missing because it was already too dark. This caused an uproar amidst families who have victims in the sea. “There were some boats that could pick up 15 passengers from the water and they were transferred to hospital. The rest is still missing in the water,” Zuheiry says.

Ahmad Gad, a fisherman from Rashid and another witness, said that families were waiting on the Rashid coast for the rescue works to find their relatives. “I saw a woman being rescued carrying her two sons who lost consciousness.” He added that most of the passengers were women from Kafr el-Sheikh heading to the Rashid market, the main commercial hub for them.

According to Shalaby, rescue works only started after the arrival of the governors of Beheira and Kafr el-Sheikh later in the night, although the collision happened at around 8:00 pm. “This is not the first time it happens," he said. "Last year, two boats also collided and two young men died. Those boats are usually overcrowded. They are supposed to carry only seven passengers, along with life jackets. But no one cares to check. It’s totally unruly.”

Those boats are usually owned by individuals. Port areas from where they take off and land are rented from the government also by individuals. Most of the crossings boats are run down, and the returns from fares do not exceed 25 piasters per passenger.

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