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Thirteen dead as barge sinks in Lake Tanganyika: officials

Thirteen people were killed, and dozens remain missing, after an overloaded barge sank in central Africa's Lake Tanganyika, the maritime inspection service said yesterday.
The disaster happened last Friday about five kilometres (three miles) from Kalemie port, on the Democratic Republic of Congo side of the lake that is also shared by Tanzania, Burundi and Zambia.
"Thirteen bodies have been recovered, including nine children," a maritime inspector in Kalemie, Mbutu Nasibu, said, adding that it was believed that more than 100 people had been on board the vessel.
Another port official at Kalemie, Xavier Kasimbo, said that 17 people had been rescued by fishermen shortly after the barge went down.
Officials earlier Wednesday said the disaster occurred overnight Monday, but Sadiki Kandolo, a judicial police officer at the port, confirmed — as did other local sources — that it occurred on Friday.
"It was by mistake that some elements in the marine services spoke of Monday," Kandolo said.
Lying in the Great Rift Valley, finger-shaped Lake Tanganyika is one of the largest lakes in Africa, with large populations of hippopotamuses and crocodiles.
"There were 58 passengers on the manifest, but we know there were a lot of unlisted passengers as well. The operators always take as many as possible," said Kasimbo.
"We'll never know for sure exactly how many people were on board," he added.
The search for survivors resumed on Wednesday.
The barge operated a regular ferry service between Kalemie and Moba, situated some 150 kilometers (95 miles) to the south on the banks of Lake Tanganyika which serves as a natural border between DR Congo and Tanzania.
An initial inquiry suggested that the ferry operator had decided on an unscheduled stop at the town of Kibanga, rather than taking the normal direct route to Moba.
"It was night-time and the barge hit a rock and broke in two," said Nasibu. "A lot of people drowned, but some were rescued by fisherman who heard the cries for help.
A number of those rescued ran off as soon as they made it back to shore, apparently unwilling to be interviewed by police.
The bodies recovered so far have been taken back to Kalemie to be identified by relatives. The remains of the vessel of the vessel have also been salvaged for inspection.
As well as carrying too many passengers, the barge was also believed to be heavily overloaded with various goods.
"It's always like that," said one maritime inspector. "A boat only leaves when it's completely full — when there's no space for even one more passenger, or one more container."
Ferry disasters are relatively common on the waterways of the DR Congo, with overloading the most common cause of accidents.
Lake Tanganyika is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest.

 

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