15 additional bodies found following Gabon ferry tragedy

Police and maritime officials in Gabon oversee the search and rescue operation in the wake of the sinking of the ferry Esther Miracle on March 9, 2023. As of March 15, 21 of the ferry's occupants are confirmed dead while 16 others are still missing. (Photo: Official Twitter account of Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba)

Rescuers have found the bodies of another 15 people who perished after a passenger ferry sank off the coast of Gabon late last week, raising that incident’s confirmed death toll to 21.

Officials said search and recovery operations are still ongoing to attempt to locate the 16 other individuals who went missing following the sinking of the Ro-Pax ferry Esther Miracle near the city of Port-Gentil in the early morning (local time) of Thursday, March 9.

Local media said the 15 recently recovered victims were found inside the sunken ferry. All were wearing lifejackets but had become trapped and were thus unable to abandon ship.

The latest recovery of victims of the Esther Miracle sinking came as the search for the missing passengers and crew entered its seventh day.

Two deceased victims were pulled out of the water along with 124 survivors in the hours immediately following the sinking. Another four bodies were recovered by Monday, March 13, local media has confirmed.

The sinking occurred despite the calm weather reported in the area at the time, leading to allegations from some critics that the ferry was overloaded.

The Gabonese government has ordered the temporary suspension of all overnight ferry sailings. However, officials have yet to issue any comments on the possible causes of the incident.

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