If it's the Salaam 98, it's an old ro-ro ferry built for Townsend Thoresen back in 1970 and operated as the Free Enterprise IV.
There were at least 1,415 people on board, only three survivors have been spotted in a lifeboat. 1,310 of the passengers were Egytians working in Saudi Arabia.
There was no time for a Mayday and it appears the ship may have gone down or "over" in seconds. David Osler from Lloyds Register suggests this may be an accident not unlike the Herald of Free Enterprise in 1987, except as this was so far out from land, the water would be too deep for it to settle on the seabed with any of the hull exposed to give anyone on board a chance of survival.
All speculation of course. The ship is still listed as "missig". The Salaam 98's sister ship, the Salaam 95, went down in the Red Sea last October. That too was formerly operated by Townsend Thoresen and was the Free Enterprise VI.
This was the lead story on the American early news. Some speculation about perhaps either cargo shifted or she took on a massive amount of water quickly as a result of the drive-on section for cars malfunctioning. As of 7 a.m. EST two lifeboats were spotted and numerous rescue ships are heading to the site. No radio transmission signifying distress was reported which may indicate whatever happened to the Salaam 98 was swift. The accident occured in what is being said was high seas 12-15 hours ago, although presently that area is calm, which should make search and rescue easier.
And then the photo offered by this AP piece looks very different than the one Senan posted. All this will clear up, of course, but I'm not sure I want the details about the people on board to clear up.
Here is a related link: http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/02/03/maritime.disasters/index.html.
This one lists memorable maritime disasters since 1900. Titanic, Empress of Ireland, and Lusitania are listed (there is a picture of the New York Herald headline of Titanic's loss), along with the Halifax Explosion, the Wilhelm Gustloff, Dona Paz, and the Estonia (1994) and Senegal (2002) ferry losses.
"According to France-based shipping expert Yvan Perchoc, the Al Salam 98 was one of several old Italian ferries to which extra levels had been added in order to boost passenger capacity, sometimes threefold.
"Despite the addition of extra bulges on the sides of these ships, one can wonder about their stability," he said, adding that the draught of such vessels was generally very low."
Excessive topweight, heavy seas...goodbye cruel world!
The latest articles point to 324 survivors with little hope of finding any more. The Royal Saudi Navy and the Egyptian Navy both have ships searching the area, but the waters there are fairly chilly this time of year. Unless there's another boat or raft out there, it doesn't look good.
Would the Water Temps be that cold, Mike? The Brother Islands - smack dab in the middle of the Red Sea out of Hurghada - measure winter temps of around 22 C. This was a bit northerly to that, but not much. The difference between their body temp and the ambient water temp would be enough to produce at least mild hypothermia, but it's possible that - if that were the only consideration - they could survive at least some time in the sea.
I'd be far more concerned about sharks if I were in the water. Seeing on the map where she went down, I immediately thought of the big Oceanic Whitetips that frequent the area. Tonight I caught a brief interview with a survivor who had been clinging to a chair in the water - he made mention of the 'fish' that had begun to eat them.
Dehydration and exposure would also be a huge problem during the day unless they were in a lifeboat equipped with water and a canopy. In addition to the sun, that area experiences wicked dry winds.
I'm reminded hauntingly of the fate of the Salem Express.
>>Would the Water Temps be that cold, Mike? The Brother Islands - smack dab in the middle of the Red Sea out of Hurghada - measure winter temps of around 22 C.<<
If that's around 60° on the fehrenhiet scale, that would be about right. Not that big a deal if you're in it for only a few hours, although certainly uncomfortable...but all night, all through the day and into the following night is a different matter.
Did they think they could just douse it with a little water and try to forget it ever happened? Was the radio perhaps on the blink? (And if that's the case, why did they put to sea??)
About the only cautionary note I'd throw out now is to be skeptical of what we see in the news. Even or perhaps especially some survivor accounts. They may not be from survivors and may not have an awful lot to deal with reality. I seem to remember that much the same happened with another shipping loss...say around April of 1912.