Bahraini authorities have confirmed that 20 Filipinos were among the 130 passengers of a tourist boat that sank in Manama, Bahrain, abs-cbnNEWS.com learned Friday.UPDATE (3/31/06) More info here:
In an al-Arabiya television interview, Information Minister Mohammed Abul-Ghafar said 20 Filipinos were among the ferry's passengers.
There were also 25 Britons, 10 South Africans and 10 Egyptians, Ghafar added.
Interior Minister Sheik Al Kahlifa said most of the ferry's passengers were employees of a Bahrain-based company.
Commander Jeff Breslau, a spokesman for the US Navy's 5th fleet which is based in Bahrain, said 16 Navy divers and a US ship were assisting in rescue efforts. He said the boat had sunk in a harbor close to the shore.
The Al-Dana was a modified version of the traditional dhow sailboat common throughout the Persian Gulf. An official with the vessel's owner, Al Kobaisi Travel and Tours, said it was an old dhow that had recently been refitted to host dinner cruises.
The official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the vessel could carry a maximum of 150 people.
Dinner is served while the vessel is docked. Later, the vessel routinely sails for two hours close to the shore. The official said the vessel only had a small kitchen, and the food served to passengers was cooked on shore.
Television stations showed what they called a file photo of the al-Dana, which appeared to be about 65-95 feet long with two decks.
The passengers were celebrating the completion of the structure of Manama's World Trade Center in a party organized by several corporations, India's ambassador to Bahrain, Balkrishna Setty, told the AP.
Interior Minister Sheik Al Kahlifa said most of the passengers were employees of a Bahrain-based company.
"Things were going all right, people were dancing, people were having fun, but the boat was very crowded," Khalil Mirza, a Bahraini survivor, told the AP.
The boat then listed as it made a left turn soon after leaving the harbor, he said.