Search teams in Gabon recovered the dead bodies of 15 passengers of the ferry that sank off the West African country's coast last week, thus bringing the provisional death toll up to 21, the coordinator of rescue operations revealed on Tuesday, March 14th.
The Ro-Pax ferry Esther Miracle (Gabon-flagged/MMSI 626001245) was nearing Port-Gentil when it suffered water ingress shortly after 3 am local time (7 pm UTC) on March 9th. The vessel was carrying 161 passengers on the route Libreville-Port-Gentil when it sank close to the coastal village of Nyonie.
Authorities confirmed 6 deaths on Monday, March 13th, and were still searching for 31 missing. Air force planes/diving teams were sent to conduct daily search operations.
According to the head of rescue operations, Bekale Meyong, 124 people had been rescued and 21 were confirmed dead after 15 more bodies were found in the shipwreck.
Ambulances took the bodies to mortuaries. Search operations are ongoing.
The government has not yet commented on the cause of the accident.
Critics accuse the government of being slow to respond as well as of downplaying the scale of the accident, saying the ship was carrying more passengers than disclosed.
There are unconfirmed reports the ferry was weighed down with cars, livestock, and other merchandise.