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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
'No survivors' under Senegal ferry
Capsized ferry
The ferry had nearly double the passengers allowed
A diver who took part in rescue operations after the Senegalese ferry capsized said he found no survivors in the hull.

Speaking in the capital, Dakar, on Monday, he said he had dived under the capsized ship on Saturday morning, two days after it had overturned en route from Casamance in southern Senegal to Dakar.

Ferry tragedies
June 1904 - Steamship General Slocum sinks in New York harbour, 1,021 died.
April 1912 - Titanic sinks in North Atlantic, 1,523 died.
Empress of Ireland sinks off Canada, 1,012 died.
April 1980 - Philippines ferry sinks, over 1,000 died.
December 1987 - Philippines ferry Dona Paz collides with tanker, 4,386 died.
September 1994 - Ferry Estonia sinks off Finland, 852 died
September 2002 - Senegalese ferry Joola sinks, nearly 1,000 died.
His news came as the results of a preliminary inquiry into the disaster were awaited.

The Senegalese authorities have revealed that more than 1,000 people were on the ship that capsized on Thursday off the coast of Gambia.

The prime minister's office said 185 passengers who had boarded the ferry at a second stop had not been counted originally.

Officials now say 1,034 people - nearly double the boat's official capacity - were on the overcrowded state ferry Joola when it overturned in bad weather.

Only 64 survivors have been found and everyone else is feared to be dead.

Anger is mounting in Senegal against the government, which has accepted responsibility for the tragedy.

Identifying victims

Grieving families have been gathering in the city hall of the capital, Dakar, where pictures of the remains were put on display by the Senegalese authorities.

They are also trying to establish the identities of the more than 350 bodies recovered so far.

Photos of the dead laid out on tables
People tried to identify their relatives from photos of the dead

The French agency AFP said that so far only two families had been able to identify bodies of their relatives who had been killed in the disaster.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has said the state bears responsibility for the disaster.

Facing angry crowds in the capital, Dakar, he said he believed there had been "an accumulation of errors", which resulted in the disaster.

Mr Wade said it had been established that the ship was overloaded - and the state would compensate the victims' families.

The ferry, named the Joola, was travelling from Ziguinchor, the main town of the southern Senegalese province of Casamance, to Dakar when the tragedy occurred.


[The Joola] should never have taken to the sea

Sud newspaper

Mr Wade said people had been allowed on without tickets to the ferry, which had a capacity of 550 passengers.

Questions have also been raised about maintenance, as the Joola had only recently resumed service after undergoing repairs.

Jean-Marie Diatta, anxiously waiting for news of his relatives, told the BBC he blamed the tragedy on negligence.

He said an earlier sailing from Ziguinchor had also experienced problems, with one of the ship's motors damaged in a storm.

"When that damage became clear, the ship should have been put out of commission," said Mr Diatta.

"What we are seeing now is the result of irresponsibility."

Media outrage

Senegal's independent press has also been strongly critical of the government.

Containers for the bodies
The recovered bodies are in refrigerated containers
"Criminal negligence", the Sud daily newspaper declared in a front-page headline. The Joola "should never have taken to the sea," it said.

Most of those missing are Senegalese nationals, along with a number of foreigners from neighbouring Guinea-Bissau and Gambia - as well as French, Spanish and Swiss nationals.

Scores of bodies - many of them children - are reported to have been recovered from the River Gambia and transported to the Gambian capital, Banjul.

The government declared three days of national mourning.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Russell Trott
"Dakar is still in shock"
The BBC's Chris Simpson
"The government got off on the wrong foot by announcing a provisional estimate of only 800 deaths"

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28 Sep 02 | Africa
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