Friday, April 07, 2006
A Djibouti-flagged boat carrying some 250 people on an annual religious pilgrimage has sunk killing at least 69 people. The wooden boat laden with construction materials and three times the passengers it was built for sank just 100 metres from the port in Djibouti, a tiny Red Sea state of 300,000. It was sailing for the town of Tadjoura, 35 kilometres north-east, when it went down around 1 pm (local time) on a pilgrimage known as Djamaad.
"It was so quick that people were brought down by the materials which sank with them," survivor Ali Mohamed said. Another survivor, Omar Souleiki, said a small wave caused the boat to capsize. Local fishermen, later assisted by the French and Djiboutian navies, scrambled to rescue the victims, many of whom were elderly men who could not swim. Officials believe at least 20 people were still missing from the boat, which was built to carry a maximum of 80. Hospital officials say 36 people were hospitalised, with seven in serious condition. No passenger list was available and women wailed as they recognised photos of their loved ones placed on walls in police stations. The dead were laid next to buildings along the port until nightfall when some were taken to hospitals and others were buried.