CAIRO – At least two crew members drowned and 14 others remained missing when a cargo ship under the flag of St. Kitts and Nevis sank in bad weather Monday in the Red Sea, an Egyptian official said.
Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Deraz, head of the Egyptian Red Sea Port Authority, said the Caribbean islands-flagged Ibn Battuta sent a distress message early Monday while it was sailing near the Egyptian port city of Safaga in the Red Sea.
The ship, with a 26-member crew, had passed the Suez Canal and was en route to the United Arab Emirates carrying a cargo of 6,500 tons of silica sand meant for manufacturing glass when it was hit by bad weather.
Details were sketchy and Egypt's official MENA news agency initially said the Ibn Battuta was Cypriot-flagged.
MENA reported that a small vessel, the Sultan, was nearby and rushed to the scene, where it managed to rescue six crew, five Somalis and one Iraqi. An Egyptian helicopter saved three more crew members, the report said.
Deraz said another passing merchant ship found the two bodies of the drowned crew while a third saved one more crew member. He said the number of the surviving crew now stood at 10 but that the rescue operation was still ongoing.
Deraz said the crew were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, Iraq and Sudan. The ownership of the Ibn Battuta was not immediately clear, but Deraz said there were indications it was owned by an Iraqi.
Ibn Battuta was a 14th century traveler from present-day Morocco whose journeys encompassed most of the Islamic world and beyond.
Monday's sinking off Safaga took place near where the ferry Al-Salam Boccaccio 98 sank in Feb. 2006, after a fire broke out on the vessel. About 1,000 people — mostly Egyptian workers returning home from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations — died at the time amid botched rescue attempts by the Egyptians.