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 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 00:51 GMT
Dozens missing in Brazil ferry disaster
At least seven people have died and dozens are missing after a passenger ferry believed to be carrying about 300 capsized in the northern Brazilian state of Para.

At least 206 passengers - many wearing life jackets - swam to an island close to the site of the accident on the Para River, near the mouth of the Amazon.

AMAZON TRAGEDIES
January 2002: Boat sinks in collision near Laranjal do Jari - at least 7 dead
May 2000: ferry collides with barge near Breves - 7 dead
November 1999: ferry capsizes in the northern Amazon - at least 5 dead
A spokeswoman for the Para river service said officials did not know exactly how many people were missing as many passengers aboard had not been registered.

Estimates put the number of missing at between 50 and 80, she said.

The authorities say the accident, near the town of Barcarena, may have been due to overcrowding, as the vessel, the Sap Luiz, had a capacity for only 150 people.

The bodies recovered were found floating in the water, and rescuers were only able to locate the site of the shipwreck by air bubbles and a fuel slick on the surface.

Unscheduled stops

The Sao Luiz started its trip in Manaus with 112 passengers and was bound for the Para State capital, Belem.

It headed down the Amazon River and made a scheduled stop in the town of Santarem.

But the ferry also made a number of unscheduled stops, where a number of passengers came on board.

Correspondents say accidents on the Amazon river and its tributaries are commonplace and that most are caused by overcrowding and strong currents.

In January, at least seven people drowned when a boat carrying more than 100 people hit a moored ferry near the Amazonian town of Laranjal do Jari.

Two years ago seven died when a ferry collided with a barge on the Amazon river, near the Para state town of Breves.

See also:

17 Dec 02 | Country profiles
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