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Shenge is a coastal town on the Atlantic ocean; it is the seat of the Kagboro chiefdom, one of several in Moyamba District in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone. Due to the dense coastal jungle, the town of Shenge can only be reached by helicopter or boat. Pampa is the name given to the boats that travel among the coastal cities.
The population of the town are primarily of the Sherbro and Mende ethnic groups. The residents of Shenge are predominantly fishermen, and the town is one of the biggest fish producers in Sierra Leone. The hereditary chiefdom is held by a descendant of the Anglo-Afro Caulker dynasty.
On September 9, 2009 a coastal boat (known in Sierra Leone as a pampa) was travelling a sea route of about 65 km (40 mi) along the coast from the town of Shenge heading to the Western Area town of Tombo near Freetown with at least 246 passengers on board, including many schoolchildren returning from holidays; it capsized shortly after departure. The Sierra leone Navy commander Mao Suma, who is in charge of the rescue operation, said sixteen bodies were recovered and 39 passengers rescued. Commander Suma said 213 passengers were still missing and feared dead.
Sierra Leone Information Minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said the cause of the accident would be fully investigated. The Sierra Leone Police special investigation unit spokesman Ibrahim Samura said overloading and bad weather might have been an issue.
This is the second major pampa accident in Sierra Leone. In November 2000 at least 150 people drowned when a boat capsized carrying 200 people; it was also bound for the coastal town of Tombo.
Day of mourning
President Ernest Bai Koroma declared Monday 14 September 2009 as a day of national mourning for the lives lost in the boat accident. The next day he and top members of his government led a high-power delegation to Shenge, the town near where the pampa sank. Speaking at the Shenge Community Centre in Moyamba District, President Koroma said, “We are here today as President of this country, as members of the government of this country, as institutions and agencies of this country, and we are here to represent the entire Sierra Leonean population to express our sympathy for this great disaster that has met our nation."
The President said that the people of Sierra Leone relied on the coastal boats, but had to observe safety precautions such as using life jackets. He also vowed to ensure that maritime authorities had sufficient power to enforce the law.
Represented in popular culture
In the film Blood Diamond (2006), Shenge is said to be the home of the protagonist Solomon Vandy (played by Djimon Hounsou), a diamond worker, and his family. The film is set in the early 1990s, and he is captured when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attacks Shenge.