33 arrested over deadly ferry sinking off Gabon

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)

Prosecutors in Gabon have confirmed the arrests of 33 individuals in connection with a ferry sinking incident that left at least 21 people dead.

Some officials of the country’s Ministry of Transport and the merchant marine as well as representatives of shipowner Royal Cost Marine are now in government custody as part of the investigation into the sinking of the Ro-Pax ferry Esther Miracle.

The arrests came as search and recovery operations were still ongoing to attempt to locate the 16 other people who were on the ferry when it sank in calm seas as it was approaching the city of Port-Gentil in the early morning hours (local time) of March 9.

Of the 161 people who were on the ferry, 124 survived the sinking while 21 deceased victims were recovered from the waters off Port-Gentil over the span of one week.

Some of the survivors have recounted that the ferry’s crew provided only minimal guidance as the vessel started to take on water.

Another four merchant marine and maritime affairs officials have been suspended in connection with the incident while Brice Paillat, Gabon’s transport minister, stepped down from his post late last week following calls for his resignation by relatives of the deceased victims.

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