At least four people died and three were missing after a boat carrying dozens of tourists capsized under heavy storms in Senegal, authorities and emergency services said Tuesday.
The boat was carrying 24 Senegalese nationals, six French people, two Germans, two Swedes and one person from Guinea-Bissau, when it turned over in driving rain and a heavy swell, fire department chief Papa Angel Michel Diatta said.
The identities and nationalities of the victims are not yet known.
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The boat was heading for the Madeleine islands, site of an offshore national park popular with tourists who travel from Dakar, coastal capital of the country.
Emergency services continued to look for those missing on Tuesday. Reporters saw a dozen divers at the scene.
Distressed families were waiting on the shore to get news of their loved ones.
“The gendarmerie called us at 5:00 am (GMT and local time). My brother was on the boat. The worst thing is not knowing,” said Aminata Diop, who was among the relatives on the beach.
There are “four dead bodies and between three and four people are missing. Thirty-five people were on the boat. Search and rescue operations are continuing this morning,” Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye told reporters by telephone.
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The causes of the accident were unclear. The interior minister told Senegalese media overnight that several tourists were worried about the heavy rains and wanted to return to the pier but others wanted to stay on the boat.
The survivors spent the night on the island, Ndiaye told local radio on Tuesday. Blankets and food were sent to them and they were to be ferried back to the mainland in the morning, he added.
The rainy season arrived late this year and heavy storms have resulted in several casualties this month.
Two fishermen were killed on their canoe in the same area nearly two weeks ago.
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