Liberia: At Least Seven Missing After Cargo Ship Sinks

(file photo).

The Liberian government has mounted a rescue operation for scores of people feared missing following the sinking of a cargo ship off the coast of the capital, Monrovia.

Authorities say the ship which was heading for the central port city of Buchanan was officially carrying 18 people, as indicated by its manifest, but they suspect that the number of passengers could have been higher.

"We are commissioning an investigation into how a vessel that was detained for failure to meet rudimentary safety requirements managed to get on the sea with passengers and cargo," Eugene Nagbe, commissioner of the Maritime Authority, told reporters at a press conference on Sunday morning.

According to Mr Nagbe, the ship had been declared unseaworthy.

Among those listed in the manifest are its Swedish captain, a Chinese crew member and nine members of the regional West African Examination Council.

The Liberian-registered Niko Ivanka reportedly left Monrovia on Saturday morning only to send out a distress signal later in the afternoon to the Liberian coast guard, about overflowing water.

Mr Nagbe told reporters that before help arrived, the ship had partially sunk.

He noted that search and rescue operations were ongoing for the missing people after 11 were pulled out of the water.

Teams from Liberia's coast guard, aided by a ship from the anti-whaling organisation known as Sea Shepherd, are searching nearby shores and riverbanks for people or bodies, he said.

Mr Nagbe added that the government would investigate the incident , noting that the ship was not even licensed to carry passengers.

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