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Boat disaster in Africa's Central Republic

January 15, 2015

A river boat fire and sinking in the Central African Republic may have claimed up to 100 lives. Another report says 8 people died. Fire spread from the barge's motor, forcing passengers to jump overboard.

Kongo Zentralafrika Bangui Fluss Flussverkehr
Image: picture alliance/africamediaonline

Reports emerging from the republic's capital Bangui on Thursday said the sinking occurred on Monday. The barge named New Jerusalem was reportedly heavy laden while traveling down the river Oubangui with an estimated 100 occupants.

A naval official in Bangui quoted by the news agency AFP spoke of only a "few survivors" including a child with his mother. There had been "no rescue team" and only one body had been found, he added.

In another report contradicting that account, Radio France Internationale put the toll far lower at eight, saying many occupants had been rescued.

The mayor of Bangui's port district said the casualty figure was difficult to estimate.

History of river incidents

The Oubangui has a history of boat incidents. Last September, a ferry accident on the M'poko, a tributary, is thought to have claimed at least 80 lives.

AFP quoted the Central African Republic's (CAR) transport chief Silvere Yabada who questioned the passengers' use of the barge, which he said "can't be recommended."

EU Afrika Gipfel 02.04.2014 Brüssel Ban Ki-Moon und Samba-Panza
President Samba-Panza with UN chief Ban Ki-moon at a 2014 Brussel's summitImage: Reuters

CAR in UN-backed transition

Since January 2014, the Central African Republic has been run by a transitional authority led by interim president Catherine Samba-Panza and backed by a UN-mandated force.

Her transitional administration replaced a rebel regime headed by Michel Djotodia who was persuaded to step down under international pressure because of alleged atrocities by his forces.

ipj/sb (AFP, dpa)

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