Gabon ferry death toll rises to 21, 16 still missing: gov’t
LIBREVILLE, March 15 (NNN-AGENCIES) — The death toll from a ferry disaster off the coast of Gabon last week has risen to 21 and the search continues for 16 people still missing, the public prosecutor said.
Divers managed to recover the bodies of 15 more victims from the wreck of the Esther Miracle, public prosecutor Andre Patrick Roponat said on Tuesday. The vessel went down overnight Wednesday to Thursday carrying 161 passengers and crew from the capital Libreville to the oil town of Port-Gentil.
One hundred and twenty-four people have been rescued since the incident. An earlier toll had put the number of dead at six. Roponat said the latest 15 victims had been found in the ill-fated boat and brought out of the water by divers.
“All were wearing life jackets. They were stuck in the boat,” he said, adding the bodies had been taken for identification.
“The search continues,” he said.
Two inquiries have been opened and the government has announced the suspension of four officials as a precautionary measure. The prosecutor also said there had been some cases of people being taken into custody and also of being questioned but gave no details.
Most of the 124 survivors were picked up off Libreville after dawn on Thursday by locals in dugout canoes, fishermen, an oil barge and a navy patrol boat. Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba declared Monday evening three days of national mourning starting from Tuesday in memory of the victims of the sinking.
“Tuesday, March 14, Wednesday, March 15 and Thursday, March 16 will be days of national mourning. In addition, throughout this national mourning, all festive and sporting events in the country will be suspended,” said the president.
The ferry carrying passengers and goods was bound for Port-Gentil, the second largest of the Central African country. The ship was relatively new, according to local media.