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Mozambique makeshift ferry disaster kills 96


A makeshift ferry boat has sunk off the north coast of Mozambique killing 96 people, including children, authorities said, raising an earlier death toll.

The converted fishing boat, carrying about 130 people, ran into trouble late yesterday as it was trying to reach an island off Nampula province, officials said.

Most of those on board were trying to escape the mainland because of a panic caused by disinformation about cholera, according to Nampula’s secretary of state Jaime Neto.

Yesterday, authorities said the boat was believed to have sunk as it was overcrowded and unsuited to carrying passengers.

“Five more (bodies) have been found in the last few hours, therefore we are talking about 96 deaths,” island administrator Silverio Nauaito said.

Three of the five were children, he added.

Rescuers have found 11 survivors and search operations are continuing, the official said.

Earlier, officials had said 91 people lost their lives.

The southern African country, one of the world’s poorest, has recorded almost 15,000 cases of cholera and 32 deaths since October, according to government data.

Nampula is the worst affected region, accounting for a third of all cases.

In recent months, the province has also received a large influx of people fleeing a wave of jihadist attacks in its northern neighbour of Cabo Delgado.

Missing at sea

The boat was headed to the Island of Mozambique, a small coral islet that used to serve as the capital of Portuguese East Africa and gave its name to the country.

Unverified footage circulating online appeared to show dozens of bodies covered by blankets lying on a beach.

Mr Nauaito said it was not clear how many people were missing at sea as authorities were yet to determine the exact number of passengers.

A trading-post on the route to India, initially used by Arab merchants, the Island of Mozambique was claimed for Portugal by famed explorer Vasco da Gama.

Hosting a fortified city and linked to the mainland by a bridge built in the 1960s, the island is listed as a World Heritage Site by the UN’s culture agency, UNESCO.

Mozambique, which has a long Indian Ocean coastline, was a Portuguese colony until independence in 1975.

Home to more than 30 million people, it is regularly hit by destructive cyclones.

In March, at least one person died as an illegal fishing vessel foundered near a southern beach.

With almost two thirds of the population living in poverty, Mozambique has set high hopes on vast natural gas deposits discovered in Cabo Delgado in 2010.

But an insurgency since 2017 waged by militants linked to the Islamic State group has stalled progress.

More than 5,000 people have been killed and almost a million forced to flee their homes since fighting began.


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