FROM: MILBUR HQ
SUBJ: MALKAL SITREP #014A
Over 200 people drown in boat accident while fleeing Malakal
MALAKAL (13 Jan.)An unconfirmed number of people that may be in the hundreds drowned in the Nile River on Sunday when a boat taking them out of the city of Malakal overturned.
“We have not counted them yet. It will take our community three days to collect all the bodies and to bury them,” said an eyewitness and the secretary of Akoka County, Majok James Chol.
The local official told Radio Tamazuj that the boat was going downriver from Malakal toward Lelo after panic swept through Malakal owing to rumors of an imminent attack by forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.
People who boarded the boat were seeking a safe place outside of Malakal, which already experienced several days of clashes in late December. According to Majok James, the iron boat taking the passengers across the river was used for commercial purposes and had two Honda engines.
The boat would normally carry between 50 and 80 people. “The boat was overloaded with hundreds of people, nobody counted them. When they passed our area we saw the boat starting to tip,” said the official.
He continued: “People grabbed the sides but when the boat capsized, only two people and the boat driver managed to reach the banks alive. This part of the Nile is wide and deep and has a strong current.”
“The boat sank immediately. Most of the passengers seemed to be families with women and children, ” said the witness.
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