More than 1,200 passengers of a ferry that had just left the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba to head to Egypt were forced to flee on life boats after a fire erupted Thursday, officials say.

Officials from Egypt's Red Sea ports authority said there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths, but the rescue operation is said to still be underway.

The director of the Al-Jisr Al-Arabi Company, which operates the ferry, also confirmed there were no casualties.

"There were no casualties in the fire which broke out on the container deck," Hussein Sawub told Jordan's official Petra news agency.

Reports however say that the ferry has been seriously damaged.

The fire reportedly broke out after the ferry was about 15 nautical miles from Aqaba, and another vessel was called to help soon after the fire started, it was reported.

Most of the passengers are Egyptians expatriates workers who were returning to Egypt from neighbouring countries.