Government says not told of the Red Sea ferry sinking for hours

The presidential spokesman said Tuesday that the owners of the Red Sea ferry that sank, drowning about 1,000 people, did not inform the government that the ship had sunk for nearly six hours after it went down.

Suleiman Awad emerged from a Cabinet session chaired by President Hosni Mubarak to say the government first heard that the ship was in danger at 7 a.m. and was feared sunk at 7:45 a.m.

By most accounts the Al-Salaam Boccaccio 98 sank no later than 2 a.m., five hours early. Other reports say the ship sank at 1 a.m., which would have made the delay in notification at least seven hours.

"What really happened," Awad said, "was that the port authority was first informed at 7 a.m. by the ship's owners that they had lost contact with the ferry. Forty-five minutes later, the company told port officials the ship may have sunk," Awad said, reports AP.

O.Ch.