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Two Dead, 28 Missing In Gabon Ferry Accident: Port Official

The accident happened while the ferry was on a trip from Libreville to Port-Gentil

Two people died and 28 are missing after a small ferry foundered off the Gabonese coast, officials said on Thursday.

The Esther Miracle ferry was on an overnight trip from the capital Libreville to the city of Port-Gentil with 151 passengers onboard, a port official told AFP.

Between 3:00 am (0200 GMT) and 4:00 am, the vessel reported a “water intrusion” that “led to a loss of control,” its owner, Royal Cost Marine, said on Facebook.

Deputy Transport Minister Eric Joel Bekale, in a video posted on Facebook, said the ferry sank “at around 3:58 am off Libreville.”

“At the present moment, 121 people have been saved, and sadly two people have died,” he said, adding that the authorities had launched an inquiry.

The port official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said 28 people were missing.

Six ambulances were waiting alongside a fire truck and a large tent on a jetty in Port Mole, the vessel’s departure point, and motorised canoes, barges and naval vessels brought in survivors, an AFP reporter said.

Prime Minister Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze and Interior Minister Lambert Noel-Matha were at the scene.

A young woman was taken to an ambulance on a stretcher, covered in a survival blanket, while a fireman brought in a baby, also wrapped up.

Some survivors disembarked from an oil company’s supply barge, which had taken part in the rescue operation, as a crowd applauded.

Some of the passengers gathered on the quayside and knelt in prayer.

“Lord God, you saved us from the waters, we will make sacrifices to you, thank you, lord,” intoned one survivor.

The authorities set up a support unit early Thursday for loved ones, said anxious relatives waiting behind a barricade.

“I have two relatives, my cousin and his wife, who were on the boat. I got a phone call at around 3:00 am and they said they were sinking,” a woman told AFP.

“At 4:00 am, a friend who’s in the police called me to say that he had spoken on the phone to my son and one of his friends, who told them they were going down,” said Jean-Felix Moungonga.

He said he would only be reassured when he saw his son “with my own eyes”.