Saturday, 19 October 2013

Mali river disaster toll soars to 72

The death toll from last week's river boat sinking in Mali, one of the worst ever in the country, has jumped from 39 to 72, an official said Friday, after more bodies were discovered inside the wreck.

"There are now 72 dead, 11 lightly injured and 210 survivors," Security Minister General Sada Samake said, giving what he said was a definitive count.

A large dugout boat, carrying scores of people and a large amount of merchandise, broke up on the Niger river near Koubi, which lies around 70 kilometres (40 miles) north of the central city of Mopti.

"Rescue teams were able to refloat it. We found more bodies," the minister said at a press conference attended by several other government members.

Accidents involving rudimentary canoes are frequent but the disaster that took place overnight a week ago was the deadliest ever recorded in Mali, according to the authorities.

Such boats are the main means of transport for residents of Mali's central and northern regions travelling to the towns dotting the Niger, the main river in west Africa.

"In the future, these canoes will have to be equipped with life vests, fire extinguishers and lights for nighttime navigation," Planning Minister Abdoulaye Koumare said.

French troops in Mali to fend off Al-Qaeda-linked groups assisted the emergency response by dispatching medics.

Residents of the remote area complained however that most of the effort to find survivors in the hours following the accident was led by villagers because the authorities were slow to deploy and ill-equipped.

Saturday 19 October 2013


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