Overloading blamed as Cameroon ferry disaster death toll climbs to 17

Photo: Wall Street Journal

The death toll from the sinking of a passenger vessel in Cameroon late last month has climbed to 17 after rescuers found more bodies in the area where the incident occurred.

The converted cargo vessel Austrheim capsized and sank off the Bakassi Peninsula in the country’s southwest after it struck a sandbar in the late evening (local time) of Sunday, August 25. The ferry was sailing from Calabar, Nigeria, to Tiko, Cameroon, at the time of the incident.

State media has reported that a total of 111 people who had been on the ill-fated vessel have so far been rescued. However, the Cameroonian government said the exact number of passengers and crew remains unknown.

Three fatalities had initially been confirmed by local authorities. The figure has since risen after 14 more bodies were recovered from the water in the days following the sinking.

Search efforts continue for at least 90 other passengers and crew who remain unaccounted for.

The country’s defence ministry said in a statement that Austrheim’s sinking was caused by overloading.
The vessel was supposed to accommodate no more than 75 passengers but may have been carrying well over 200 when it capsized, the defence ministry added.