Gabon ferry death toll rises to six; 31 still missing

Search operations continue four days after Esther Miracle vessel carrying 161 people from Libreville to Port-Gentil sank.

Gabon map

The death toll from the sinking of a ferry last week in Gabon has risen to six, according to officials, as rescue teams continue to search for 31 people still missing.

The privately owned Esther Miracle vessel was carrying 161 passengers from the capital, Libreville, to Port-Gentil, an oil port town further south, when it capsized in calm waters on March 9 close to the coastal village of Nyonie.

The government said on Monday that three more bodies were discovered on Sunday, doubling the death toll to six.

“We have not stopped the search operations, we have continued them since the first day. As we speak, a boat is at the area with diving teams which are locating the shipwreck,” Prime Minister Alain-Claude Bilie By Nze told state broadcaster Gabon 1ere on Sunday.

The air force has been conducting daily search operations to find the missing people since the ferry sank.

“The search operation continues despite the large area of the operation zone,” Modeste Mezui, a pilot, told the state broadcaster.

Andre Patrick Roponat, the Libreville public prosecutor, told AFP news agency on Thursday an inquiry had been launched to determine whether negligence, poor maintenance or “factors beyond human control” caused the accident.

Pending the outcome of the investigation, the Gabonese government suspended overnight passenger ship voyages until at least March 31 and ordered an audit of all passenger vessels.

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.

Source: News Agencies