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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 11:35 GMT
Senegal army 'left' ferry survivors
Cemetery for Joola victims
Many of the victims were children without tickets
A government-appointed inquiry into the capsizing of the Joola ferry in September has said the army fatally delayed the rescue operation.

The inquiry also reports that 1,153 died - 200 more than previously thought.

Army chief of staff Babacar Gueye told the panel there was no point in sending out military aircraft to look for survivors at 0845, nine hours after the boat was overturned by a violent storm.

Fishermen in the area were able to pull 64 from the sea immediately after the Joola capsized and some survivors indicated that a speedy rescue operation could have saved many lives.

Aircraft were eventually dispatched at 1145 but no-one else was rescued.

Bribes

The inquiry also found that the Joola was carrying double the number of passengers it was designed for and said that the ferry did not "conform to international regulations regarding safety equipment".

Other irregularities noted by the report, according to the Associated Press news agency, include:

  • Lack of training for the crew
  • failure of the captain to carry out standard stability calculations before leaving port
  • inadequate emergency rafts
  • faulty radio equipment
When fierce winds started lashing the ferry, the unattached freight slid to one side of the Joola, along with many of the passengers, meaning the ship was unable to regain equilibrium.

On Monday, President Abdoulaye Wade sacked Prime Minister Mame Madior Boye, who was blamed for initially dismissing any official responsibility for the tragedy.

The Joola was operated by the navy, and Mr Wade has also dismissed the head of the navy.

Passengers routinely travelled without tickets, either because they had friends in the navy or after paying bribes.

'Alarm bells'

The authorities were not alerted until the morning because radio operators were absent from their posts overnight.

Upturned hull of the Joola
Only 64 people survived

Some of those who survived spoke of hearing the shouts of people trapped inside the hull.

One survivor who was found in the morning clinging to a piece of wood said that several people had managed to hold on the same piece of wood for several hours before letting go.

"The ministry in charge of the merchant navy was always ringing the alarm bell about overcrowding and lack of safety on board the Joola, without ever carrying out its legal obligation to prevent the ship from sailing," the French news agency, AFP quotes the commission of inquiry's report as saying.

The chairman of the commission, Seydou Madani Sy, made several recommendations to the government, including the creation of a special meteorological centre to provide better warning of violent storms.


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15 Oct 02 | Africa
02 Oct 02 | Africa
20 Mar 00 | Africa
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