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At least 97 dead in boat accident off Mozambique coast

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At least 97 people have died after an overloaded boat capsized and sank off the coast of Mozambique late Sunday, VOA News reported, citing Radio Mozambique.

Silveiro Nauaito, the administrator of Mozambique’s northern province of Nampula, said that those aboard the boat, largely women and children, were travelling from the northern Lunga district to a small island off the coast known as Mozambique Island, VOA News reported, citing Radio Mozambique.

He said 130 passengers were allegedly fleeing due to disinformation about a cholera outbreak and were travelling to the island for health care.

Nauaito said rescue teams had found 12 survivors and were searching for more. However, poor weather at sea was making the operation more difficult. He said 91 bodies were found on Sunday and six others on Monday. He stated that 40 bodies have been taken either to the island or the mainland, and burials of the victims have started.

Since January, Mozambique has been making efforts to contain a deadly cholera outbreak in its northern regions. The health crisis has also impacted neighbouring countries like Malawi and Zambia.

In a telephonic interview with VOA News, the secretary of state in Nampula province, Jaime Neto, said that the boat could have been hit by a giant wave. He noted that the boat was also overcrowded and not appropriate for carrying passengers. He also said that the boat was overcrowded as there was misinformation about the cholera outbreak, VOA News reported. The boat was “not prepared to take passengers. It ended up sinking and creating this situation that the province regrets.”

Notably, boat travel is an important means of transport in Mozambique, which has a dilapidated road network.