Gabon: the sinking of a ferry leaves three dead and 34 missing
Three dead and 34 missing: here is the terrible last toll, after the sinking of a small ferry off the coast of the Gabonese capital Libreville, the prosecution announced on Friday. At least one child died, and two adults, when the “Esther Miracle”, a mixed passenger and freight ship which linked Libreville to the oil port of Port-Gentil sank in the middle of the night Thursday not far from the coast .
The number of occupants, including passengers and crew, was reassessed at 161 on Friday evening instead of the 151 counted by the government on the day drama. “One hundred and twenty-four people have been rescued, three lifeless bodies found while 34 people are missing and the search is continuing,” said the deputy public prosecutor of Libreville on Friday evening on the Gabon Première public television channel. Loic Mangongo.
Since the government’s initial toll Thursday morning of two dead and 28 missing, the body of one person had been recovered and three others found alive. Loïc Mangongo did not specify whether the 10 additional missing were passengers who had not been registered on boarding or who had not been counted by the emergency services immediately after the tragedy.
Chances of finding survivors dwindle
The authorities did not specify under what circumstances the last three castaways could be rescued since the day before, probably after many hours in the water off the capital of Gabon, small central African state nestled in the Gulf of Guinea and rich in oil. The chances of finding survivors, and even bodies, nearly 48 hours after the tragedy are dwindling. The currents are very strong in the Gulf of Guinea.
On Thursday, the Libreville public prosecutor, André Patrick Roponat, told AFP that an investigation had been immediately opened to try to determine the causes of the sinking: either damage or a navigation error, in which case “the owner will have to answer for endangering the lives of passengers”, or “a case of force majeure beyond the control of anyone”. The sea was calm overnight from Thursday to Friday.
An ongoing investigation to determine the causes of the sinking
On Friday morning, experts were dispatched to the scene shipwreck, near the entrance to the gulf which shelters Libreville, where the depth of the seabed is around 30 m. Pending the conclusions of the investigation, the government has temporarily suspended night voyages until at least March 31 for all passenger ships and ordered an “audit of all naval units dedicated to the transport of passengers ” in the country.
The ship, whose date of construction is unknown, was purchased and inaugurated on this line last November. It belongs to the private company, Royal Cost Marine (RCM), which remained unreachable on Friday. The vast majority of survivors were wearing life jackets among the dozens that AFP saw arrive in Libreville on Thursday morning, disembarking from fishing canoes, an army patrol boat and a large barge from a company of oil logistics which was cruising not far from the shipwreck, came to their rescue.