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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 19:10 GMT
Survivors tell of ferry sinking
Residents collecting wood in the harbour of Antalaha, northern Madagascar
The cyclone left thousands homeless and many missing
Two survivors have confirmed that a ferry bound for Madagascar with 113 people aboard did sink during a storm.

The cyclone hit the coast of Madagascar twice earlier this week, killing 32 people and making thousands homeless.

Relatives of those on board the Samson ferry waited at the port in Mahajanga, north-west Madagascar, for news.

The BBC's Tim Healy says two survivors, a young Comoran man and a girl, reached Mahajanga on Wednesday and confirmed the ferry went down last Sunday.

Our correspondent says it appears the ship's engines cut out at the same time as it hit heavy seas and strong winds at around 2200 local time (1900 GMT).

The two survivors managed to get on to a life raft - which could hold up to 25 people - but said they could not see any other survivors.

They reached land about four hours later.

Aid appeal

Jean Ralambo, head of Madagascar's merchant marine service, said the two had given identical accounts of the sinking when they were questioned separately.

"These two sailed their small vessel all night long before managing to make shore at the village of Ampasimariny the following day, where they were discovered by local people," he said.

Our correspondent says their accounts are significant, particularly for the relatives who had waited several days with no news.

The ferry heading from Moroni in Comoros was 150km (93 miles) off the Madagascan coast when contact was last made.

The Comoros government is expected to declare three days of national mourning.

Madagascar is usually exposed to cyclones between December and March.

Last month 29 people were killed and tens of thousands were made homeless by Cyclone Elita.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Mike Huggins of the World Food Programme
"In Antalaha there is barely a house standing"



SEE ALSO:
Madagascar calls for cyclone aid
08 Mar 04  |  Africa
Cyclone flattens Madagascar town
04 Apr 00  |  Africa
Fierce cyclone hits Madagascar
02 Apr 00  |  Africa
Country profile: Madagascar
27 May 03  |  Country profiles


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