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The Salem Express is arguably one of the most controversial wreck dives in the Red Sea due to the tragic loss of life which occurred in December 1991 when she sank just an hour away from its final destination, the Safaga Port.
Originally built in the French shipyards of La Seyne in 1964 and known by several different names during the course of its life, the Salem Express was a 100 meter (300 feet) long Roll-on roll-off ferry with a bow that could be raised forward and upward to allow for embarkation and disembarkation of vehicles and passengers directly from her nose ramps. Based out of the Port of Safaga in Egypt, on the night of December 1991, it was returning from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia reportedly overloaded with pilgrims returning from their holy-Hajj-pilgrimage in Mecca. The captain who was well experienced in the water of this region chose an unauthorized shortcut between the mainland and the shallow Hyndman Reefs to reduce the journey time by an estimated two hours. Unfortunately on this occasion, there was an unexpected storm with gale force winds which caused the bow of the ship to strike with astonishing force against the Hyndman Reefs ripping apart its side causing the ship’s hull to rapidly flood with water. The ship reportedly sank within 10-20 minutes of striking the reef preventing an orderly evacuation using the lifeboats, resulting in the deaths of over 470 passengers with only 180 survivors.
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