25 Lost In Ferry Mishap

Tuesday, May 15, 2001
Twenty-five people are feared dead after their boat sank off the east coast of Madagascar last week, including 18 players and officials from a local soccer club and two Frenchmen. The boat sank on Thursday with some 41 people on board, including nine crew members, while it was traveling from Soanierana-Ivongo on the mainland to the picturesque tourist island of Sainte-Marie, around 40 km (25 miles) away. Fourteen survivors were picked up on Friday, and two were washed ashore alive but "in critical condition" on Monday after nearly four days clinging to jerry cans and other flotsam in the Indian Ocean waters, officials said. News of the sinking first came out on Friday, but details have been slow to emerge on the Indian Ocean island where communications are poor. Among the missing are 18 players and officials from a local amateur football club, Transfoot, from the eastern port of Toamasina, which was on its way to play a side from Sainte-Marie. Transfoot plays in the second division of the provincial league. Six footballers and club officials were among the 16 people who survived, residents said. Some of the survivors were swept ashore on Sainte-Marie, a premier tourist spot popular for the humpbacked whales which regularly swim through its waters. Other were carried by tides to the mainland some 40 km (25 miles) to the north. Although two planes, a helicopter and five boats were still trying to locate survivors, officials said hopes of finding any more people alive had all but gone. Locals said the boat, the Samsonnette, was 15 years old and riddled with rust, and started shipping water after it was struck by a large wave. Rescuers were slow to arrive as the boat had no radio to call for help. - (Reuters)

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