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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 19:12 GMT 20:12 UK
Senegal remembers ferry tragedy
Memorial ceremonies have been taking place in Senegal to mark the first anniversary of the sinking of the passenger ferry, Joola, in which more than 1,800 people died.

Joola ferry
The boat was designed to carry 500 passengers
Mourners wearing black sashes gathered at the graveyards of the victims and at the port of Ziquinchor in the southern province of Casamance, from where the Joola set out on its fateful voyage.

Women wailed and President Abdoulaye Wade was seen to shed tears as he placed flowers on the river at the Ziquinchor ceremony.

About 15 girls whose parents died in the accident cried as each dropped a clutch of flowers, one by one, into the water in memory of the 15 nationalities aboard the Joola.

The ferry capsized in heavy seas on its way to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, in one of the world's worst maritime disasters.

Overloaded

The ferry was carrying nearly four times as many people as it should have been when it went down off the Gambian coast.

An investigating commission subsequently called for better supervision and improved safety measures.

Prime Minister Idrissa Seck attended a ceremony at Mbao cemetery, near Dakar, where some 100 victims of the tragedy are buried.

Senegalese Interior Minister Macky Sall attended a ceremony near the border with the Gambia where some victims were buried after being picked up from the Gambian beaches.

Compensation

President Wade, also handed out the first cheque to a survivor's family as part of the promised compensation.

Jeanne, the mother of Adelaide, a girl who disappeared with the ferry, sobbed as she received a cheque worth 5m CFA francs ($8,700).

The Senegalese government says it is about to start paying victims' relatives compensation totalling more than $30m.

Joola ferry
Inquiry: 'Overloading and negligence caused the accident'

However, the BBC's Dakar reporter, Alpha Jallow, say the government claims that only 20 families have so far met the government criteria for compensation.

The victims' relatives are required to produce proofs, such as birth certificates, passports and other legal documents in order to qualify for compensation.

In addition, the names of the victims have to appear in the shipping manifesto. About 30 Europeans, including some French nationals, were among those who died.

Our correspondent says that many people may be disqualified, because the ship was overloaded and it is likely that some names would not have been included in the official passenger list.

There were only 64 survivors and about 500 bodies were recovered from the Atlantic Ocean, where the Joola ferry was left, as what the government describes a "sanctuary" for the dead.

A report published last November concluded that the accident had been caused by overloading and negligence on the part of the boat's operators, the Senegalese navy and rescue services.




SEE ALSO:
Senegal ferry disaster probed
14 Apr 03  |  Africa
Senegal ferry survivors' ordeal
30 Sep 02  |  Africa
Country profile: Senegal
06 Mar 03  |  Country profiles


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