The number of people believed missing in a ferry disaster off the coast of Gabon has climbed to 34 following a reassessment, with the death toll also rising from two to three.
At least one child and two adults have been found dead since the Esther Miracle — a mixed-use freight and passenger vessel that travelled between the capital Libreville and the oil town of Port-Gentil — sank in the wee hours of Thursday not far from the coast, according to authorities.
The number of passengers and crew aboard the ship was initially believed to be 151, but that figure was revised upwards to 161 on Friday evening.
“One hundred twenty-four people have been rescued (and) three lifeless bodies have been found, while 34 people are still missing and the search continues,” Libreville deputy public prosecutor Loic Mangongo told public television channel Gabon Premiere.
Mangongo did not explain how the 10 other missing people had been left out of the initial count.
Three more people have also been rescued from the wreck since the initial tally given on Thursday afternoon, though authorities did not specify the circumstances in which they were found.
With currents strong in the Gulf of Guinea where the ferry went down, the chances of finding more survivors, or even bodies, so long after the disaster is dwindling.
On Friday morning, experts were sent to the site of the sinking — near the entrance to the bay on which Libreville is situated — where the water is about 30 metres deep.
Libreville public prosecutor Andre Patrick Roponat told AFP on Thursday that an inquiry had been opened to see whether negligence, poor maintenance or “factors beyond human control” were the cause of the accident.
Pending the outcome of the investigation, the Gabonese government has suspended overnight passenger ship voyages until at least March 31 and has ordered an audit of all vessels “dedicated to passenger transport” in the country.
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