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Congo investigator says ship overcrowded

[ 2010-09-08 13:48]     字号 [] [] []  
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A capsized boat that killed as many as 200 people over the weekend was carrying four times as many people as the passenger list claimed, Congolese investigators said late on Monday, adding that boat operators bribed officials to allow them to overload the vessel.

Kasai Occidental Province Deputy Governor Hubert Mbingho said that at least 153 passengers - and possibly more - were on the boat that capsized late on Saturday in the Kasai River. The passenger list, however, only had 36 names.

"We are waiting for investigations to finish so that we could arrest and punish all officials who were in charge of checking the vessel safety condition but failed to stop it from leaving the dock," he said.

Two survivors said "hundreds" of people were aboard when the engine caught fire, causing the boat to capsize.

One survivor estimated that 200 people drowned, and another said that local fishermen refused to help drowning passengers, instead looting goods from the burning vessel and beating people with oars in the dark.

Investigators had by Monday night found only three bodies, Mbingho said, two children and a woman who appeared to be in her 30s.

Mbingho said the boat's operators bribed officials to overload the boat. He said the boat operators appear to have gone into hiding.

"When we asked the official of the navigation department why he allowed the vessel to leave the dock, he did not have anything to say," he said. "We've noticed that there were bribes that the vessel managers gave him, and we don't know whether more people were added over the 153 passengers declared to have been aboard the vessel."

Robert Mbwinga, chairman of Congo's National Navigation Department, said rules regulating boats are difficult to enforce in a country with crippling poverty and high unemployment.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Congo investigator says ship overcrowded

About the broadcaster:

Congo investigator says ship overcrowded

Lee Hannon is Chief Editor at China Daily with 15-years experience in print and broadcast journalism. Born in England, Lee has traveled extensively around the world as a journalist including four years as a senior editor in Los Angeles. He now lives in Beijing and is happy to move to China and join the China Daily team.