Families of lost Egyptian fishermen storm Alexandria naval base

Ahram Online, Tuesday 8 Jan 2013

Missing fishing boat turns up in Marsa Matrouh in absence of ten-man crew; Relatives of lost fishermen say Egyptian naval forces were slow to respond to Monday morning distress call

File photo: Fishermen in Egypt (Photo: Reuters)

Relatives of the crew of the missing Egyptian fishing boat Zamzam stormed a naval base located in Alexandria's Abu Qir seaport on Tuesday, where they torched several buildings to protest alleged government failure to rescue their lost family members.

"We received a distress call from the boat on Monday at 10am and immediately reported it to the naval base in Abu Qir," Mahmoud Galal, a relative of one of the missing fisherman, told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website. "They [naval officers] promised to take all steps necessary to rescue the crew."

Galal, however, went on to accuse Egyptian naval forces of not reacting to their call until 5pm – a charge that has provoked the fishermen's families to demonstrate outside the base and demand the dispatch of rescue teams.

On Tuesday afternoon, naval forces reported that the boat had been found – in the absence of its ten-man crew – off the coastal city of Marsa Matrouh.

According to Marsa Matrouh Governor Ahmed Helmi El-Hayatmi, three out of four of the Zamzam's lifeboats were also found. El-Hayatmy predicted that the fourth boat would also soon be discovered, perhaps bearing some of the missing fishermen.

Some local residents, however, assert that the vessel – which had set out from Abu Qir en route for Marsa Matrouh early Monday – sank in the nearby Ras El-Hekma Gulf.

Ghnewa El-Fardi, Marsa Matrouh's head fisherman, told Al-Ahram that the boat had sunk due to a fracture in the boat's stern caused by high waves.

Bad weather has recently plagued Egypt's north coast, including the city of Marsa Matrouh, which suffered heavy downpours and lightening on Monday night, hindering maritime navigation.

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