Maputo — Quelimane (Mozambique), 9 May (AIM) - At least ten people died and a further 13 are missing, following a shipwreck in which a passenger vessel sank on Wednesday in the Zambezi river.
The wooden boat, the "Julia 1", set off from Chinde, near the mouth of the Zambezi, in the morning and was headed for the town of Marromeu on the opposite bank of the river, in Sofala province. It sank at about 08.00 in the Bento region, in the Zambezia district of Luabo.
There were eight survivors, giving a total of 31 people on board the "Julia 1". The survivors made their way to Marromeu, and then travelled to Beira by train. Searches are under way for the 13 missing passengers, although it is feared that they too lost their lives in the disaster.
The boat did not have any life jackets for the passengers, thus violating a basic rule of maritime safety.
An investigation by the independent daily "O Pais" showed that the boat sank after it hit a floating tree trunk, which tore a gaping hole in its hull.
According to Chinde district administrator, Pedro Virgula, there are strong currents in the Zambezi, particularly near the mouth of the river. "The current pulls many objects with it, including tree trunks, and the boat struck one of them", he said.
The "Julia 1" was the only boat providing river transport to and from Chinde. Now Chinde residents have no way of crossing the river. There used to be a ferry, but it broke down several years ago, and has never been replaced.
There have been frequent tragedies involving the sinking of boats on Mozambican rivers and along the coast, often caused by overloading. According to the Transport Ministry, a team has been set up "to ascertain the circumstances and causes of the accident".