Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ferry Goes Missing Near Abu Dhabi Coast

A search and recovery operation was continuing last night for eight people feared dead after a ferry went missing off the coast of Abu Dhabi. One survivor had been found in the seas off Jebel Dhanna, according to the government news agency, WAM. Brig Muhair al Khatiri, director general of the Critical National Infrastructure Authority, said the Jebel Dhanna port lost communication with the ferry during a severe sandstorm on Wednesday. Authorities began a search with six military rescue boats and two helicopters. “We hope to locate the ship and rescue the passengers tomorrow when the weather gets better,” he said. According to WAM, the ferry was carrying nine crew members and a cargo of cars and lorries and was travelling between Jebel Dhanna in the Western Region and the island of Jurnain. It was operated by the Dalma Co-operative, which runs regular ferry services between the outlying islands and the mainland. Residents on Dalma Island said they knew of the ship’s disappearance but did not believe anyone on board was Emirati. So far no trace has been found of the ferry or the missing crew.The survivor, whose name and nationality have not been released, is said to be in poor condition. Desert Islands Resort and Spa, on nearby Sir Bani Yas Island, suspended its own ferry service for four hours on Wednesday because of the bad weather, it said. The storm produced high seas along the coast and poor visibility. On the same day that the ferry disappeared, an oil tanker and a container ship collided near Jebel Ali port, with severe damage to the tanker, which caught fire. There were no casualties. Dalma Island has a population of around 4,800 and lies about 30 kilometres off the coast. The Dalma Island Co-operative, which operates the ferry service, also imports fresh foods and manages the local fishing industry. The island is part of a major investment plan by the Tourism Development and Investment Company that will see new hotels and restaurants, a golf course and redevelopment of the marina.

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