SAFAGA, Egypt, (Reuters) – Angry Egyptians awaiting news of relatives who were aboard a ferry which sank in the Red Sea last week ransacked the office of the vessel’s owners on Monday and set fire to the furniture, witnesses said.
Reuters Television footage showed a crowd of men hurling chairs, filing cabinets and airconditioning units out of the first floor office, piling them up in front of the building and starting the fire, shouting and chanting as they did so.
Witnesses had earlier said the fire had been set inside the office building, used by the el Salam Maritime Transport Company and located near the Red Sea port of Safaga.
Police fired tear gas to drive away the crowd and firefighters doused the flames.
Relatives have been gathered at the port entrance since Friday, the morning after the Al Salam 98 sank with more than 1,400 people on board on its way to Safaga from Saudi Arabia.
The crowd, desperate for information about survivors, swelled to more than 1,000 over the weekend but dropped to about 300 on Monday, witnesses said.
Figures from the Cabinet Office showed rescuers had pulled 387 survivors from the sea and found 135 bodies so far. Rescue officials in Safaga had previously given higher numbers.
The authorities have deployed hundreds of riot police to block the entrance to the port, where the ferry had been due to dock. Most of the passengers were Egyptian workers.
Relatives of the missing have protested against what they say is rough treatment by the authorities.
They have also been angered by survivors’ accounts of the way the ferry continued its voyage for several hours after fire broke out below deck.