The death toll in the Kafr El-Sheikh ferry sinking rose to 17 the health ministry announced Saturday.
The transportation ferry sank Thursday night for reasons that are yet to be determined.
Head of the Administrative Prosecution Sameh Kamal ordered an immediate investigation of the case on Saturday, after suspecting a possible “act of negligence” by officials at the Nile River Control Authority and the Office for Boat Licencing.
Five passengers were rescued from the sinking ship, while the bodies of the 17 who died were recovered from the water. The number of passengers originally on board the ferry is still unknown.
The prosecution ordered the burial of bodies, which were received by the grieving relatives. The rescued passengers were transferred to the nearest hospital to receive medical attention.
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail ordered Friday an investigation into the incident, calling upon officials in the Kafr El-Sheikh governorate to “ensure the application of safety regulations” for boats and ferries.
Although the reason of the accident still unknown, Minister of Local Development Ahmed Zaki Badr said Saturday that the ferry was supposed to carry seven people only, and had an expired licence.
The newly-appointed governor of Kafr El-Sheikh, Al-Sayed Nasr, ordered compensation of EGP 10,000 be dispensed to the family of each victim, while EGP 5,000 would be dispensed to those injured in the accident. Further, Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali ordered another EGP 10,000 for the relatives of the dead passengers.
Wali added that the families of the deceased will receive “aid and assistance”.
The ferry was traveling from the village of Sendeon to the village of Rahamnea. It is still not known whether the accident was due to unforeseen weather conditions or a technical malfunction.
Thursday’s accident reopens the controversial case of the “ferries of death”, titled as such for being the site of numerous fatal incidents on the Nile.
The ferries link the two banks of the Nile, offering transportation, especially in villages, to those wanting to cross to the other side, including students, patients, employees and traders.
Most of the accidents occur due to the overload of passengers, who prefer the ferry, despite lack of safety, due to an absence of alternative transportation methods such as bridges.
Under the current law, the maximum punishment is an EGP 100 fine for operating a boat without a license or carrying goods or passengers that go above the specified passenger limit.
“Accidents occur on an almost monthly basis, but citizens and those passing by save the situation. Every day, there can be a new accident where hundreds of lives can be lost,” said Mohamed Al-Shater, a government employee from Assiut.
Al-Shater takes a ferry to the other side of the Nile every day to reach his destination. “There is a bridge, but it is very far from where I live. The issue with these ferries is that the drivers can sometimes be children, or people who are not registered by the government,” he added, noting that the river police pass by them without arresting them.
Commenting on this issue, the ministry of interior said on Saturday that river police continues to conduct raids on “illegal boats used to deliver citizens across the two banks of the Nile”.
Al-Shater said the accident will not be the last as “the policies of governorates don’t change. The media will follow up on the case for a month or two then nothing will change.”
Last July, 35 people were killed when a barge collided with a cruise boat, sinking the smaller boat in the area of Warraq in Giza. Currently 40 government officials are standing trial on charges of negligence.