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Last Updated: Friday, 3 August 2007, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
'Scores drowned' on S Leone boat
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At least 65 people are missing after a boat capsized in a storm off the Sierra Leone coast, police say.

Details are sketchy but police believe the boat was carrying about 85 people - more than it was designed to carry.

The motorised canoe had sailed north from the capital, Freetown, on Thursday before overturning at the mouth of the Great Scarcies river.

Two people survived, while seven bodies have reportedly been recovered from the water.

"Members of the Sierra Leone navy, backed by some members of the boat association, left in the early hours for the disaster scene to join local fishermen who have been searching since the tragedy took place," a spokesman for the local boat owners' association, Michael Asuman, told Reuters news agency.

It is not clear how many people were on board the boat - accurate lists are rarely kept.

It was also reportedly carrying many bags of rice and containers of palm oil.

Police spokesman Chris Charley told the BBC that corpses were being transported back to Freetown.

August is the height of the rainy season in West Africa and violent storms are common.

The BBC's Umaru Fofana in Freetown says many people, especially traders in Sierra Leone have little choice except to use dug-out canoes to get around and transport their goods.

He says these are often overcrowded, with little care for passenger safety.

In June, at least 19 people died when a helicopter crashed taking passengers to the airport from Freetown.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Police suspect the boat was overloaded



SEE ALSO
Sierra Leone air crash kills 19
04 Jun 07 |  Africa
Country profile: Sierra Leone
20 Jun 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Sierra Leone
22 Jun 07 |  Country profiles



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