At least 11 die as boat sinks in Suriname

Saturday, December 29, 2018

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PARAMARIBO, Suriname (CMC) — The search continued yesterday for survivors after a boat sank on Coppename River, leaving as many as 11 people dead and several others missing.

The bodies of seven people, including four children, have already been found — amid fears that the death toll could rise with several others, including a mother and two children, still missing.

In a brief statement the Government expressed “condolences to the entire community”, 'and said that it is “devastated by the incident”.

The National Information Service said that Corps Police Suriname, the district council, medical relief services, and local residents are “doing their utmost” to assist in the search and rescue operations.

Local villagers said at least 20 people have so far been rescued and that the tragedy has cast a bleak cloud of mourning over Suriname's usual end-of-year festivities.

Not much details have emerged as to what caused the incident during the early hours of yesterday morning, but media reports are that the vessel left the village of Cornelis Kondre, located in Sipaliwini district, and headed towards Boskamp in District Saramacca around midnight, carrying at least 30 people, several of them children.

The boat sank near the village of Kalebas Creek, about halfway to its destination. Boskamp is a popular trans-shipment point from where passengers can catch the bus to either Paramaribo in the east or Nickerie in the west, both bustling with year-end activities.

The reports say that the boat's departure time may have been unfortunate; it was pitch-dark in the area and a strong wind had been torturing the river.

Village Elder Conchita Alcantara at Kalebas Creek told local Radio ABC that the boat captain had chosen to set sail at that hour because the river was too rough at night, but a “big wave” still caused panic.

“Everybody shifted to one side of the boat, which caused it to capsize. They still tried to scoop the water out, but it was too late. And then a second big wave came that pushed everybody apart, with the dramatic result,” she said.

Alcantra said she had been alerted of the incident around 5:00 am and that she sent out rescue teams to look for survivors.

“We found several people alive, but we also found the first corpses,” she said, noting that by midday seven bodies had been found and “more than 20 people having been found alive”.

A woman and three children are still missing.

Alcantra identified the people on board the boat as the village elder of Cornelis Kondre, with his family and several other residents from that village.

“It's all one family. Everybody was from there. This is a disaster; It is also very emotional for me to experience. The village elder himself survived, but he lost many grandchildren today. He is here, together with other villagers, and you can see that he is suffering under this,” she said.

The passengers had reportedly not been wearing swimming vests, a prerequisite for private passenger boats that work Suriname's waterways.

“A lot of people in these parts do not like to wear their swimming vests, but now they can see why it's necessary,” said Alcantra.

Residents of Kalebas Creek are continuing the search, but Alcantra said any hope of finding more survivors was dim.

“This concerns two children and a woman. It has been too long, and it would be a miracle if they survived out there all this time. They were not wearing vests. If they had been wearing vests, I would have had more hope,” she added.


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