Boat accident off Mozambique leaves 97 dead

Maputo, Mozambique   — At least 97 people died when an overloaded boat capsized and sank off the coast of Mozambique late Sunday, state-run Radio Mozambique reported, citing local officials. 

Radio Mozambique on Monday quoted Silveiro Nauaito, administrator of Mozambique’s northern province of Nampula, as saying those aboard the boat, largely women and children, were traveling from the northern Lunga district to a small island off the coast known as Mozambique Island.

He said the 130 passengers were allegedly fleeing because of disinformation about a cholera outbreak and were headed to the island in search of health care.

Nauaito said rescue teams had found 12 survivors and were searching for more, but poor weather at sea was making the operation more difficult. He said 91 bodies were found on Sunday and six others early on Monday. About 40 bodies have been taken to either the island or the mainland, and burials of the victims have begun, he said.

Since January, Mozambique has been battling to contain a deadly cholera outbreak in its northern regions, a health crisis that has also affected neighboring countries such as Malawi and Zambia.

The secretary of state in Nampula province, Jaime Neto, told VOA in a telephone interview that the boat could have been hit by a giant wave but it was also overcrowded and not suitable for carrying passengers.

He also attributed the overcrowding of the boat to misinformation about the cholera outbreak. The vessel “was not prepared to take passengers. It ended up sinking and creating this situation that the province regrets.”

Boat travel is a major means of transport in Mozambique, which has a dilapidated road network. Accidents are common on the country’s rivers, lakes and Indian Ocean coast, with most due to poor maintenance of the vessels or overcrowding.

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