ISTANBUL // A ferry with 96 passengers and crew sank near Turkey's north-west port of Bandirma overnight. Seven people are missing, the vessel's owners said on today. Earlier, local officials said one person was killed and that about 30 were missing but acknowledged they did not have a full record of who was on board the ferry. Local fishermen joined rescue operations when the roll-on roll-off ferry, loaded with 73 lorries and two cars, went down in the Sea of Marmara shortly after leaving Bandirma for Istanbul.
The Marmara N Denizcilik ferry company said in a statement there were 67 passengers and 29 crew on board the vessel when it sank and that all but seven of the passengers had been rescued, the state Anatolian news agency reported. Officials said the cause of the sinking was not immediately known, but that the ferry began leaning to one side as it pulled out of the port. "The ship was rocking back and forth, to the left then to the right, then finally sunk, completely sunk," one survivor said.
Passengers said the ship sank in about 15 minutes and that many of those on board were asleep in their vehicles before it began to go down. The ship left Bandirma at 11.15pm local time yesterday. Television pictures showed survivors being led from rescue vessels to the shore where ambulances were waiting. Five coastguard vessels and one helicopter have been sent to the area and divers were at the scene. * Reuters