Government’s negligence turns the Nile from a lifeline into a grave

Death by drowning between the eastern and western banks of the Nile River is the danger facing hundreds of citizens, including students, workers, and employees, who board ferryboats in the various governorates. There are no other means of transportation.

Along the Nile River from Upper Egypt to Lower Egypt, they cross to reach their jobs and schools despite the deaths of dozens of people from ferryboat accidents. Not a year passes without at least two accidents. There are various and known reasons behind the drowning disasters, but officials do nothing to prevent or treat them. Along the river, with its two branches, and canals, citizens complain about the lack of transportation between the two banks except for old ferryboats.

Ferryboats have the lowest safety and security standards. Most of them are not licensed, children drive them, and they are overloaded, ending with tragic scenes after cars and citizens fall off the roof and drown. Citizens called for building bridges in villages so they can cross between the two banks of the river, especially with the frequent incidents of ferryboats sinking in specific villages, most notably in the governorates of al-Buhaira, Menoufia, and Minya.

Ferryboat sinks

News of the recovery of several bodies from the Nile River has become routine, the same as road accidents in Egypt. The most recent one was last week when a ferryboat sank in el-Beheira Governorate. Not less than four died, and others are still missing. Minya Governorate, for example, in Upper Egypt, is served by only two bridges, and the third’s opening delayed. At the same time, the primary means of transportation is the Nile ferryboat that lacks the most straightforward safety and security means. Water bodies’ police statistics show that 178 ferryboats operate in Nile Minya: 32 governmental and 146 private.

Workers on the ferryboat explained that the lack of control allows the ferryboat to work even when their licences expire, or they are in violation of the licence terms. Some engineers working in the manufacture and maintenance of Nile ferries also mentioned that accidents occur due to the failure to close the doors while sailing. They also pointed out the failure to adhere to the cargo determined in the licence as the reason why many accidents occur.

The absence of control

Observers clarify that the absence of a full crew of sailors on the ferryboat and failure to abide by the rules contained in the Nile River Traffic Law No. 10 of 1956, is the most critical reason for accidents. The most important of these rules is the necessity of installing navigational lights, operating sound alarms when taking off and moving, starting with the ferryboat when the waterway is clear, and organising the occupants of the ferryboat so that not all passengers are on one side. The number of ferryboat monitors in al-Minya governorate is only 45, which is not enough at all, given the number of ferries and their cargo, according to local officials. On the other hand, some specialists say that the recurrence of ferryboat sinking incidents indicates that the river and maritime transport system in Egypt needs developing and improving.

Officials in the Irrigation Directorate in Menoufia Governorate confirmed there are more than 75 unlicenced ferrymen in three centres (Ashmoun, al-Shuhada, and Sadat), and they are practicing work without any security and safety requirements, in light of the absence of supervision from the Nile Protection Department.

Where are the bridges?

The people of Menoufia Governorate, where Nile ferryboats frequently sink, explained that the only means of transportation for the residents of the villages of Kafr Dawud and al-Khatatba are ferryboats. They referred to their location and the wind, in addition to the poor roads leading to the farms located inside Sadat City. The same daily crisis is faced by the people of eastern and western Alexandria governorate, who demanded the construction of bridges on the Mahmoudiya Canal for pedestrians and cars to cross, to avoid disasters.

The residents explained that the owners of the ferryboats overload them and that the ferryboat runs by pulling a rope tied on the two banks, and it sometimes breaks. They confessed that the boat is unbalanced, which leads to its sinking or people falling into the canal. Accidents and drownings increase dramatically during holidays when people go out for a walk or visit the graves, primarily when funerals are held when all the mourners rush to take one ferryboat.