Boat tragedy in Liberia

From: © BBC World Service

Lake Piso in Liberia
Before the war tourists visited this area

Rescue workers in Liberia are searching a river for possible survivors after an overcrowded ferry capsized.

About 50 people are known to have died and more than 100 others are unaccounted for.

Fifteen of those on board managed to reach safety.

The accident happened at a busy river crossing near Robertsport in north-west Liberia.

The wooden boat was packed with mourners heading to he funeral of a popular local footballer.

A BBC correspondent says the disaster is tragically typical in a region which has dangerous currents and badly maintained boats.

Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea said 48 bodies had been recovered so far, while at least 15 people were known to have survived.

The final number of casualties is not yet known but he said some 200 people were believed to have been on the boat.

Mr Chea told the BBC's reporter in Liberia that the boat was one of three travelling from Robertsport in Grand Cape Mount County across the Mofa river.

"The first two made it safely across the river, but the third could not and plunged into the river," Mr Chea said.

Over the limit

Mr Chea said he expected the toll of 48 to rise "because right now it is a matter of discovering and burying bodies, there appears no chance of finding survivors".

"No matter how spacious the boat was, allowing such a large number of people to get on board was pushing it to the limit," he added.

Peter Cooper, a cameraman from the area, who witnessed the accident said: "The boat began moving in an unusual manner when it approached the middle of the river, and then overturned."

The Mofa river enters Lake Piso which is Liberia's largest lake.

Before the outbreak of civil war some 12 years ago, it was a popular tourist destination.

Monday, 16 December, 2002, 17:08 GMT

uploaded by: Robert W. Kranz  2002