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September 11, 2009

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200 still missing after boat tragedy

MORE than 200 people, including many schoolchildren returning from holidays, remained missing in Sierra Leone yesterday, a day after a wooden boat capsized at sea and left at least eight dead, police said.

Some 39 passengers have been rescued so far off the coast of the West African nation, police official Ibrahim Samura said.

At least 221 people remain missing and some of the passengers also were traveling with young children, Samura revealed.

"Most of the passengers were school-going children returning from holidays."

The boat was traveling from the village of Shenge to Tombo, near the capital Freetown, when the accident occurred on Wednesday.

"On the day of the accident the sea was rough and it was windy," Samura said, adding that the boat also may have capsized because of overloading. In addition to the at least 268 people aboard, the Teh Teh also was carrying other goods.

The boat has been found afloat, Samura said, and search and rescue operations were continuing in the area.

Sierra Leone is in the middle of its rainy season, with persistent and heavy storms affecting both land and sea.

Boat accidents are also common in West Africa, where road systems are poor and many people rely on rickety watercraft to move their wares to market.


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