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Tragedy triggers marine safety awareness
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-06 06:15

Friday's tragedy of the sunken Egyptian passenger ferry in the Red Sea has alerted the nation to intensify safety measures on marine traffic, particularly during the ongoing mass exodus over the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday.

The Ministry of Communications issued a notice over the weekend, urging local marine transport departments to strengthen supervision over waterway traffic safety.

Tragedy triggers marine safety awareness
Ferries move along the Yangtze River in this photo taken in October, 2005. [newsphoto/file]

Additional attention must be paid to the traffic safety of passenger vessels, particularly roll-on roll-off (RORO) ferries, and aid and rescue measures must also be properly in place for emergencies, the ministry said in the written decree.

In the meantime, the ministry has demanded that Chinese vessels passing through or nearby the site of the Egyptian accident must offer necessary rescue assistance for the victims.

The Egyptian ship Al-Salaam Boccaccio 98, carrying 1,310 passengers and 104 crew members, 22 cars and 16 trucks, disappeared from the radar screens shortly after it left the Saudi port of Duba at 7:30 pm local time last Thursday.

Police said more survivors were rescued from the Red Sea overnight from the ferry, but about 700 people remained missing and search teams have recovered 195 bodies.

President Hu Jintao on Saturday sent separate messages of condolence to the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia for the loss of lives in the ferry tragedy in which hundreds of passengers are still missing.

Meanwhile, the latest three accidents in Chinese marine areas have also rung alarm bells for the nation's waterway transport safety.

According to the Maritime Safety Administration of China, a total of 17 people drowned or went missing in the three marine accidents between January 20 and February 2. One vessel overturned while the other two sunk.

A massive amount of travel occurs in China during the Spring Festival period. According to the tradition, millions of people make journeys across the country for family reunions or sightseeing trips. The Spring Festival fell on January 29 this year.

Although most Chinese prefer trains as their major transport means in the peak travel period due to their general safety record, low cost water travel is also an option for those near port cities.

The Ministry of Communications estimated that around 670,000 journeys would be made throughout the country yesterday, when the seven-day festival holiday ended and millions of people returned to work.

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