Nearly 100 Die After Boat Sinks Off Coast of Mozambique

By John Mercury April 9, 2024

Nearly 100 people died and more than a dozen were missing after an overcrowded boat sank off the coast of Mozambique, the local authorities said on Monday.

The vessel was carrying about 130 people, well above its capacity, Jaime Neto, the secretary of state of Nampula Province, where the disaster took place on Sunday, said on national television.

Mr. Neto said the boat was headed to the Island of Mozambique from the town of Lunga. Some people were traveling to the island to attend a fair, he said, while others were fleeing the mainland for fear of being affected by a cholera outbreak, a panic that he said was largely driven by rumors.

Since October, the southern African country has recorded about 15,000 cases of cholera, a waterborne disease, and 32 deaths, according to government data. Nampula Province has been one of the most affected areas, but Stéphane Foulon, the head of mission for Doctors Without Borders in Mozambique, said that there had been no recent cases reported in the district from which the boat had departed.

Still, he said, “people are quite afraid of cholera.” He said his team was investigating the rumors of an outbreak.

Mr. Neto said that at least three of the bodies the authorities retrieved were children. He added that 11 people had been rescued, and that children were among those still missing.

Photographs of the boat, which was brought back to shore on the Island of Mozambique, showed what looked like a small fishing vessel.

Silverio Nauaito, the island’s administrator, told TVM, the national broadcaster, that the victims were mostly women. Some funerals were already being held on the island, according to the broadcaster.

Mozambique was a Portuguese colony until it gained its independence in 1975. The island of Mozambique was a Portuguese trading post on the route to India and one of the main ports for the slave trade during colonial times.

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