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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Senegal ferry survivors' ordeal
Capsized ferry
Many were trapped under the hull of the ferry
The Senegalese press has been printing the harrowing accounts of the Joola ferry disaster by some of the few who survived.

Cheikh Niang told Le Matin newspaper in Dakar of his memories of the last moments of the ferry Joola.

"There was a torrential downpour... Then we saw the boat was tilting to the left... Within three minutes the boat had turned over and there was a huge flood."


It was horrible, because we could hear people screaming from underneath

Mousaa Ndong, a survivor who cling to the keel
He worked in the freight department of the ferry operation and said as the ship flooded he "managed to swim through a window that had been left half-open".

"The sea was really choppy and cold. I managed to get a life-jacket for myself and find one for someone else who had called out for help."

Fishermen risked death

Ben Bechir Badji, a student returning to Dakar from Ziguinchor told Le Scoop that, "after the boat capsized, we were thrown about by the wind and huge waves until about four in the morning".

The ferry capsized before midnight on Thursday

"I then managed to cling on to part of the ferry," he said.

He was later rescued by fishermen. The student said they waited for the storm to die down before picking him and others from the keel of the capsized ship.

Ben Bechir Bedji said that he had been able to see from the numbers of people who had been sold tickets that the boat was going to be heavily overcrowded.

Other survivors paid tribute to the Senegalese fishermen.

"They rescued us in very difficult conditions, risking death," said one survivor.

Another survivor, Massaer Diakhate, said he was in a group of four people. They managed to find life-jackets for two non-swimmers and were "finally picked up after four or five hours at sea".

'Act of God'

Mother of six, Mariam Diouf, told le Scoop that she had to smash a porthole to get out.

"My only concern was to get out of the ship. I knew I could swim, but it was a real struggle against the waves until I got a place on the upturned boat".

Relatives waiting for news in Dakar
Distraught relatives crowded the quayside in Dakar

Survivors stayed on top of the capsized boat for two hours, until fishing boats arrived to pluck them off.

"It was horrible, because we could hear people screaming from underneath," said another survivor, Moussa Ndong.

A French national who survived, Patrice Auvery, said: "It all happened very quickly and few of us could get out of the hull.

"Those that did get out clung onto anything that was floating".

Cheikh Niang, the freight worker, said it was common for the Joola to be overloaded, particularly on this Ziguinchor-Dakar journey when it is the end of the holidays.

"No one is to blame. This was an act of God".


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28 Sep 02 | Africa
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