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58 die as overloaded boat capsizes in Central Africa

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At least 58 people tragically lost their lives after a river boat, overloaded with passengers, capsized in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, civil protection authorities reported on Saturday.

“We were able to extract 58 lifeless bodies,” stated Thomas Djimasse, head of civil protection, speaking to Radio Guira. “We don’t know the total number of people who are underwater.”

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Eyewitnesses and social media videos depicted a distressing scene where the boat, carrying over 300 individuals, some standing and others perched on wooden structures, sank in the Mpoko river on Friday. The vessel was en route to the funeral of a village chief but encountered trouble shortly after departure. Rescue services arrived around 40 minutes after the disaster struck.

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Maurice Kapenya, who followed the boat in a canoe due to lack of space on board, recounted collecting the bodies of victims, including his own sister, with the assistance of fishermen and residents.

Some of the injured were transported to the community hospital by motorbike taxis, according to driver Francis Maka, who offered his services free of charge in light of the tragedy, saying he had taken more than 10 people for medical attention.

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With civil protection teams no longer present at the scene on Saturday, families desperately searched for their missing loved ones near the river, aided by canoe operators they had hired, as observed by an AFP journalist.

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