May 30, 2024

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Officials: Mozambique ferry disaster kills more than 90 people

Officials: Mozambique ferry disaster kills more than 90 people

  • Written by José Tembe and Edu Fok
  • BBC News, Maputo and London

Image source, Getty Images

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Fishermen on the island of Mozambique (archive photo)

More than 90 people have died after a ferry sank off the northern coast of Mozambique, local authorities said.

Officials in Nampula province said five people were rescued out of about 130 believed to be on board the boat.

Nampula Foreign Minister Jaime Neto said they were fleeing a cholera outbreak. He added that there were many children among the dead.

“Because the boat was overcrowded and not suitable for carrying passengers, it ended up sinking,” Neto said.

An unverified video posted on social media allegedly shows dozens of bodies lying on the beach.

Portuguese channel RTP reported that the boat was apparently traveling from Lunga to the island of Mozambique off the coast of Nampula.

It is a Muslim-majority area and some of those who died have already been buried, in keeping with Islamic rituals.

Nampula Province is one of the areas most affected by the outbreak of cholera, which has spread to several countries in southern Africa since January last year.

According to UNICEF, the current outbreak is the worst in 25 years. Since October 2023, Mozambique has reported 13,700 confirmed cases and 30 deaths.

The Islamist insurgency in neighboring Cabo Delgado province has killed at least 4,000 people and displaced nearly a million others since it began more than six years ago.

Ordinary Mozambicans say they were shocked by the news of the boat tragedy, especially because of the huge death toll.

Boating accidents are common in Mozambique, but they rarely result in many deaths. Thousands of boats are said to be transporting passengers with little supervision.

Local journalist Charles Mangwiro told the BBC: “It is shocking. The authorities bear part of the blame for not doing enough to control and monitor marine traffic.”

Another correspondent in Mozambique, Berta Madem, told the BBC that this latest incident comes despite recent pressure on ferry operators to improve safety.

For nearly 400 years, the island of Mozambique was the capital of Portuguese East Africa, when the region was under colonial rule. The island is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its colonial architecture and rich history as a commercial center.

Additional reporting by Natasha Botti

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