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Ferry sinks off Cameroon coast, 127 dead

The boat was bound for the central African nation of Gabon from a town in Nigeria near the Cameroonian border.

india Updated: Mar 24, 2006 02:23 IST

Fishermen deputized as rescue workers searched the seas off of Cameroon on Thursday, but officials feared 127 people missing were dead after the sinking of a ferry.

Gregoire Mvombo, a top official in the region, cited survivors, of whom there were 23, as saying 150 people from Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coats were aboard.

It was unclear what caused the accident or even when it may have occurred. Mvombo had no more details.

The boat was bound for the central African nation of Gabon from a town in Nigeria near the Cameroonian border.

First word of the accident came when fishermen found bodies floating onWednesday in Cameroonian waters off the port town of Kribi, Mvombo said.

He said rescue workers in the area had enlisted local fishermen in the search Thursday, but he said the 127 missing passengers were feared dead.

Many ferry-masters in Africa pack passengers aboard old or poorly maintained ships in a vast continent with poor road or rail systems. River or ocean routes are used to transport goods to market. Few ferries keep proper passenger manifests.

Some 1,863 died when the MS Joola capsized off the coast of Senegal on Sept. 26, 2002, a more deadly accident than the Titanic. Only about 60 people survived.

Deaths on the waters also have resulted from a recent upsurge in African migrants, most fleeing poverty and joblessness, trying to reach Europe by boat from Mauritania, a west African nation thousands of miles (kilometers) north of Cameroon.

More than 1,000 Africans have died over the past four months alone while trying to sail in small wooden boats from Mauritania to Spain's faraway Canary Islands, according to Mauritania's Red Crescent branch.

First Published: Mar 23, 2006 23:38 IST