Survivor of Overloaded Boat Sinking in Central African Republic Shares Harrowing Experience

Tragic river boat disaster in Central African Republic kills dozens, highlights infrastructure challenges and need for improved safety measures. Survivors recount panic as overloaded vessel broke apart, devastating families.

Emmanuel Abara Benson
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Survivor of Overloaded Boat Sinking in Central African Republic Shares Harrowing Experience

Survivor of Overloaded Boat Sinking in Central African Republic Shares Harrowing Experience

Yalex Masco Sene-Bembe, a 38-year-old passenger on an overloaded river boat that sank in the Central African Republic on Friday, says he is still "in a state of shock" after rescuing four people, including his wife, father, and sister.

The flat-bottomed wooden boat, carrying over 300 people, broke in two on the Mpoko River in the capital Bangui, killing dozens.

Sene-Bembe was on the roof of the whaler when he heard two cracks, indicating the vessel was breaking apart. He witnessed his wife starting to go under the water and was able to save her first, then went back to rescue three others. Tragically, his niece died in the hospital after being rescued.

The latest toll from civil protection authorities lists 62 bodies retrieved from the river so far, with the victims being mainly women, people aged over 50, children, and some rescue workers. The causes of the disaster appear to be the poor condition of the aging wooden vessel, the weight of all the people on board, and the strength of the river currents amplified by rain the day before.

About 100 people were rescued out of the 300 on the boat, and the search is continuing for the missing, with about 50 families still without news of their loved ones. Survivors, such as Bonaventure Zekemaya, recounted the panic and struggle to get out of the sinking boat, with some fainting after being rescued.

Why this matters: This tragic incident highlights the ongoing challenges and risks faced by communities in the Central African Republic, where ageing infrastructure and limited resources can lead to catastrophic accidents. The loss of life and the impact on families and rescue workers underscore the urgent need for improved safety measures and support for those affected by such disasters.

The government has announced an inquiry to establish the causes of the disaster and declared three days of national mourning. Brigitte Imilymako, the third wife of the village chief whose funeral the passengers were attending, is in shock after losing her husband, daughter, and other relatives in the tragedy. "I don't know how I am going to go on living without them," she said, her voice trembling with emotion.

Key Takeaways

  • An overloaded river boat sank in the Central African Republic, killing dozens.
  • Survivor Yalex Masco Sene-Bembe rescued 4 people, including his wife and family.
  • Victims were mainly women, elderly, and children; about 100 of 300 passengers survived.
  • The disaster was caused by poor boat conditions, overloading, and strong river currents.
  • The government declared 3 days of mourning; survivors recounted panic and struggle to escape.