|Numerous passengers were injured and one reportedly died when a fire broke out on a ferry [Reuters]
Almost all of the passengers who were onboard a ferry that caught fire while sailing from the Jordanian port of Aqaba have reached the Egyptian port of Nuweiba unharmed on lifeboats, Egyptian officials say.
One unidentified Jordanian passenger died after jumping into the water in an attempt to escape the fire, while the other more than 1,200 onboard were rescued by authorities, Farid al-Sharaa, Jordanian Civil Defense spokesman, said.
Al-Sharaa said 12 passengers suffered from smoke inhalation and were taken to a Jordanian hospital. The remaining passengers were placed aboard life rafts that subsequently sailed off to Egypt, he said.
Al-Sharaa told the Associated Press news agency that the captain and his three crew members were also rescued and were on their way back to Egypt.
An Egyptian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said Pella's passengers were mostly Egyptian expatriate workers returning home for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, which starts on Sunday.
Hassan Falah, deputy of director of Red Sea ports authority, told Egyptian state TV that military aircraft and ships were involved in the rescue effort and hadcontinued to try to extinguish the ferry's fire.
The vessel was about 15 nautical miles off Aqaba when the blaze erupted on Thursday, the sources said.
Owned by AB maritime, Pella was also carrying five trucks.
Passengers were ordered to take to life rafts, and a tug and a second ferry were dispatched from Nuweiba to join the rescue, they added.
Falah said there was extensive damage to the ferry.