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Officials say ferry lacked license

Officials say ferry lacked license

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MANAMA, Bahrain - Some worried passengers left a traditional dhow-turned-pleasure boat because it was swaying precariously even before it left the dock on a cruise that ended with the vessel flipping over, drowning 57 people, a British survivor said Saturday.

The dhow, an ancient form of sailboat used in the Persian Gulf, had a permit only for use as a floating restaurant, not for passenger cruises, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. He also said the boat's captain, who has been detained for questioning, was not licensed to pilot the craft.

"According to coast guard records and the Tourism Board, the boat was registered as a floating boat but not as a cruiser permitted to sail," ministry spokesman Col. Tariq al-Hassan told The Associated Press.

The owner had applied for a sailing permit, but it had not yet been granted, he said.

The dead from Thursday night's accident included 21 Indians and 15 Britons, including a number of top executives involved in the construction of Bahrain's World Trade Center, a nearly completed complex of two 50-story skyscrapers in the shape of sails that are to be the tiny Gulf island nation's tallest buildings.

Sixty-eight people were rescued out of 126 on board at the time of the accident, and coast guard divers and helicopters searched Saturday for one person believed missing.

The construction firm Murray & Roberts Group had rented the dhow, the Al-Dana, for a party celebrating the towers' construction. But during the cruise, the craft tipped during a turn, sending people who had been dancing on the upper deck sliding into the water. It then flipped, trapping passengers on the lower deck.

Simon Hill, a manager with the firm who survived the capsizing, said the boat was swaying even before it left shore, "causing several people to feel uneasy. By 7:40 p.m., 16 people had disembarked," he said.

British Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said the impact of the disaster on the British community in the tiny Gulf island nation "has been enormous."


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