54 dead in refugee boat accident off Cabo Delgado


At least 54 people have died after the boat carrying them from conflict-hit districts in northern Cabo Delgado to the provincial capital of Pemba capsized last Thursday near the island of Makalowe, according to one woman who survived the incident.

The boat left Palma on Thursday, 29 October, calling first at the village of Namandingo where it picked up the majority of its passengers. The accident happened at around 7pm that day, close to Makalowe island in Ibo district, off the peninsula of Pangane in Macomia district.

There were 74 people on board the boat, of which only 20 survived, the woman said after arriving in Pemba on Monday. Pinnacle News reported on Tuesday that people on the islands of Ibo district say they have recovered 31 bodies.

Among the dead were 11 children, according to the woman who survived but who lost an 11-year-old child in the accident. The woman arrived at Pemba’s Paquitequete beach on Monday and told her story to a group of people on the beach, including Zitamar’s correspondent and the boat’s owner, Mpamba Sumail, who is based in Pemba.

The accident happened, she said, when the boat was sailing past the island of Makalowe.  Fire could be seen on the island and, fearing that an insurgent attack was ongoing, the captain changed course to sail away from the island. The boat then struck rocks and capsized.

The woman and some others survived by grabbing the boat as it turned over, while others managed to take hold of large bottles and a freezer as life-savers.

The survivors made it to the island, where they found people hiding from the insurgent attack in another part of the island. Another boat arrived later, which brought the woman to Pemba. Other survivors went to Matemo island, to escape the insecurity on Makalowe.

This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED and with support from Crisis Group. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.

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