Egyptian cruise ship disappears in Red Sea: lifeboats spotted

An Egyptian cruise ship with 1,300 people on board has disappeared from radar screens in the Red Sea off the Saudi coast, Egyptian maritime officials said Friday. Helicopters have spotted bodies floating on the sea and one lifeboat carrying three people in the vicinity of where the ship, the "Salaam 98," was last seen on the radar screens, the maritime officials said.

Saudi and Egyptian naval vessels and helicopters are searching for the ship, which disappeared from radar screens shortly after sailing from the western Saudi port of Dubah at 7 p.m. local time on Thursday night, the maritime officials in Suez said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The ship was due to have arrived at Egypt's southern port of Safaga at 3 a.m. local time, but did not, the officials added.

"We lost all contact with the ship shortly after it left the Saudi port," said one maritime official at Suez. Its last position on the radar screens was 62 miles from Dubah. An Egyptian helicopter spotted a lifeboat carrying three people, an official said. He added the search was being hampered by bad weather.

The ship is owned by the Egyptian firm El-Salaam Maritime Transport Co. and was carrying 1,300 passengers, the official added. Some of the passengers are believed to be pilgrims returning from the annual hajj to Mecca, which ended last month, reports the AP.


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