2009 Sierra Leone ferry accident

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The accident occurred off the coast of Sierra Leone (pictured).

The 2009 Sierra Leone ferry accident occurred on 8 September 2009 off the coast of Sierra Leone, when a wooden Teh Teh[1] ferry travelling from Shenge village to Tombo sank during a storm. At least 90 people to date have been confirmed dead, and over 100 others have been listed as "missing".[2] So far, only 39 survivors have been rescued.[3] Several of the passengers were children who had been on holiday,[3] though the official passenger manifest did not include them.[1] An attempted rescue operation ended on 11 September.[2] The sinking is the worst such accident in Sierra Leone since 2002, when a boatful of refugees capsized.[1][4] The Xinhua News Agency in China has likened the disaster to other major marine accidents in recent years.[1][5]

Sierra Leone's police initially indicated there were only 150 people on the ferry when it sank; however, it has since been determined that there were far more aboard.[6] There were actually about 200 passengers who had booked passage on the stricken boat; moreover, the captain allowed extra passengers to board, placing the true figure in doubt.[2] Sierra Leone's transport ministry has suggested there may have been 300 people on board.[1]

Rescue[edit]

A survivor alerted authorities to the incident after arriving onshore aboard a 20-litre plastic container.[7][8] After launching a rescue mission, the initial search party found the ferry afloat.[1] Relatives of those on board flocked to Tombo to hear what had happened to their loved ones,[1] with several "bitterly criticis(ing)" the lengthy delays at rescue attempts.[7][8] Musu Conteh, whose child went missing in the shipwreck, claimed a search did not get underway for 10 hours.[7] Several of the rescued were described as being in "serious condition".[9] One of the survivors, Alimamy Bangura, said the ferry had been "tossed around like a piece of paper".[7] Another survivor, Sam Kelfala, said "the heavy weight of drums of palm oil and other goods trapped many of the people".[10]

The 90 corpses which were recovered were all buried.[2] Thirty of them were unrecognisable and were placed in a mass grave.[2] Attempts have been made to recover more corpses from the sea.[2]

Further survivors were not expected to be found due to sea turbulence and currents, which would have hampered efforts to swim ashore.[1] However, search-and-rescue efforts persisted for several days,[1][2] with local fishermen assisting the navy.[9] Many corpses have been washed up on the shoreline.[6][7] 120 bodies were buried on 12 September 2009.[11]

Cause[edit]

Severe weather and overloading have been blamed for the sinking.[1][3][7] The boat did not carry lifejackets, and was built to hold only sixty passengers.[3][6][12] Edible palm oil was also being carried on board,[3][12] as well as kolanuts and rice bags.[7][8] The captain, Thaim Bundu, was said to have "ignored warnings" about dangerous conditions.[13] One survivor, an Alfred Smith, said Bundu was "wholly responsible", while another survivor, Bintu Sinneh, claimed the capatin was arrogant in the face of concerns from passengers. Bundu perished in the sinking.[13]

Reaction[edit]

Sierra Leone's President, Ernest Bai Koroma, was said to be "very sad" in the wake of the tragedy.[7] Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, Sierra Leone's Information Minister, said the shipwreck would be "thoroughly investigated".[7][8] International assistance has been offered.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "More than 200 missing after boat capsizes in Sierra Leone". Xinhua News Agency. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Sierra Leone ends boat rescue, dozens missing". Reuters. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "30 bodies found from Sierra Leone boat accident". Taiwan News. 12 September 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2009. 
  4. ^ "Dozens more feared dead after boat wreck". IOL. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  5. ^ "Backgrounder: World's major marine disasters in recent years". Xinhua News Agency. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Adam Nossiter (10 September 2009). "High Toll Feared After Sierra Leone Ferry Sinks". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 September 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i "200 missing in Sierra Leone boat tragedy". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c d Rose Rea (10 September 2009). "Two hundred feared dead after boat capsizes off Sierra Leone". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 15 October 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2009. 
  9. ^ a b "Deadly capsize off Sierra Leone". BBC. 9 September 2009. Archived from the original on 9 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  10. ^ "'Nature has conspired against us'". IOL. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  11. ^ "Ferry disaster victims buried". IOL. 12 September 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009. 
  12. ^ a b "Bodies found from Sierra Leone ferry accident". IOL. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  13. ^ a b "Survivors blame captain for ferry disaster". IOL. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 

Coordinates: 7°56′06″N 12°58′12″W / 7.935136°N 12.970047°W / 7.935136; -12.970047