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50 drowned, 100 missing in Sierra Leone as boat capsizes

  • Story Highlights
  • Boat capsized in mouth of Great Scarcies River in northern Sierra Leone
  • Only two survivors found so far; police estimate death toll from their accounts
  • About 200 aboard boat en route from Freetown to the riverside town of Rokupr
  • Heavy rains swelled river, washed away scores of homes in Freetown
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FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (Reuters) -- Around 50 people were feared drowned and more than 100 were missing after their boat capsized in heavy rain at the mouth of a river in Sierra Leone, police said on Friday.

A spokesman for a local boat owners' association said seven bodies had so far been recovered from the sea at the estuary of the Great Scarcies River, near Sierra Leone's northern border.

Police in the northern Kambia district estimated around 50 people had died based on accounts from the only two survivors found so far.

The boat, which was en route from the coastal capital Freetown to the riverside town of Rokupr, was believed to be carrying around 200 passengers when it ran into the choppy river waters, swollen by a week of torrential rains.

"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," said the spokesman for the boat owners' association, Michael Asuman.

Authorities say that the heavy rains have washed away scores of homes in the hilly Freetown area over the last week, leaving more than 500 people on the streets.

Boating accidents are common during Sierr Leonea Leone's treacherous rainy season. Some 25 people drowned in July last year when a wave overturned their boat at the mouth of the Great Scarcies river.

Many of the vessels plying trade and passenger routes on inland waterways and off West Africa's coast are poorly maintained, with accurate passenger manifests a rarity. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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