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Ferry Sinks Off Gambia; Hundreds Are Feared Dead

September 28, 2002|From Associated Press

DAKAR, Senegal — An ocean ferry capsized in a fierce Atlantic storm off West Africa and plunged beneath the waves in minutes, trapping hundreds of screaming passengers, and rescuers said Friday that more than 760 people were believed to have been killed.

Just 32 people aboard the ship were known to have survived the disaster late Thursday night, some by clinging to the sides of the overturned craft. Senegalese Prime Minister Mame Madior Boye said nearby boats brought the survivors to safety.

"It was horrible, because we were hearing people screaming from underneath," said one hospitalized passenger, Moussa Ndong.

Dive teams recovered 88 bodies, said Mamadou Diop Thioune, a coordinator of a French-funded marine center. Divers spotted a number of corpses through the ferry windows and believed the as-yet unrecovered passengers and crew to be dead, he said.

Searchers waited as night fell Friday for the arrival of military divers with equipment to cut into the ferry, he said.

President Abdoulaye Wade, speaking briefly to reporters, pledged an investigation. The state-owned Joola ferry capsized off Gambia in the Atlantic Ocean en route to the Senegalese capital, Dakar. Gambia is a small, strip-shaped country that partially divides northern and southern Senegal.

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