British tourists dead after boat fire in Egypt’s Red Sea

Egyptian authorities say an electrical short circuit sparked a blaze on a scuba diving boat carrying 15 tourists and 12 crew members near Marsa Alam.

Tourist boat Egypt
The boat was on a six-day cruise and due back on Sunday when the blaze broke out [File: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters]

Three British nationals have been declared dead after a scuba diving boat they were on caught fire off Egypt’s Red Sea coastline.

On Monday, British tour operator Scuba Travel released a statement in which they said they “must accept that three of our much-valued dive guests … perished in the tragic incident,” when the Hurricane scuba diving boat went up in flames off the Red Sea resort town of Marsa Alam.

In a short statement a day before, Egypt’s Red Sea Governorate said 12 crew members and 12 British tourists were rescued and a search party had been launched to find the remaining three, whose identities were not revealed.

Following an initial examination of the vessel, Egyptian authorities said: “An electrical short circuit in the boat’s engine room sparked the blaze”.

The boat was on a six-day cruise and due back on Sunday when the blaze broke out while it was about 25km (16 miles) north of Marsa Alam.

Britain’s Foreign Office said it was in contact with the Egyptian authorities and is “supporting the British nationals involved”.

Uncommon in Egypt

Images posted on social media showed a white motor yacht with the same name on fire at sea, with thick smoke billowing into the sky.

“We saw smoke from the boat, it was around 9km [6 miles] from the beach,” said Ahmed Maher, a diving manager in Marsa Shagra village. “A nearby boat rescued them and dropped them off.”

Fatal boat accidents are uncommon in Egypt. In 2021, a boat capsized in a lake near Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Alexandria, leaving at least five people dead, including three children.

In 1991, an Egyptian ferry named Salem Express – sailing from Saudi Arabia to Egypt – sank, killing as many as 471 people, mostly Muslim pilgrims.

Egypt’s Red Sea resorts harbour some of the country’s most renowned beach destinations and are popular with European holiday goers. The area has cemented its reputation as a dive destination with easy access to coral reefs from shores and dive sites offering diverse marine life.

In recent years, Egypt has gone to great lengths to bolster its tourism industry, hurt by years of political instability, COVID-19, and the negative economic effect of the war in Ukraine.

Egypt’s tourism sector employs two million people and generates more than 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

On Thursday, a Russian tourist was killed by a shark in the waters off the Egyptian Red Sea city of Hurghada.

Source: News Agencies