Dozens feared dead after boat sinks near DR Congo, UN mission says

23 May 2008

Dozens of people remain missing four days after an overloaded passenger boat sank during a storm over Lake Tanganyika in central Africa and rescuers do not expect to find any more survivors, the United Nations mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) reports.

MONUC spokesperson Abou Seidou told the UN News Centre today that there are conflicting reports on the number of casualties, but up to nine people are believed to have survived the sinking, which occurred early Monday morning local time.

Officials from MONUC and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have been helping efforts, including the use of speedboats, to both rescue any survivors and recover bodies. So far no bodies have yet been located.

Mr. Seidou said the boat, which left Tanzania on Sunday, had been due to arrive in the south-eastern Congolese town of Moba on either Tuesday or Wednesday after crossing Lake Tanganyika.

Boats in the region are routinely overcrowded, and this boat was understood to have been carrying up to 50 passengers and their goods, despite having a capacity for around 30 people.

Three people were initially rescued and a fourth person was found alive yesterday and hospitalized for exhaustion, according to Mr. Seidou. Local officials report that five other people managed to swim to a remote village on the lake’s western shore and will be transported later to Moba.

 

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