Nineteen killed in Burma ferry disaster

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Friday, October 8, 2010

A view of the Irrawaddy river, in which the boat sank, killing at least nineteen people.

Nineteen people were killed and three are unaccounted for after an overloaded ferry boat sank in a river in a flooded region of Burma. Many young children, travelling to an inter-village football tournament in Michaungai, were killed when the boat sank. During the rescue efforts, bodies of children aged between five and fifteen were recovered from the water, along with the bodies of two teachers and two local villagers. Authorities are continuing to search for three people who are still missing after the disaster.

There were 79 people aboard the boat when it sank in the Irrawaddy river, according to an unnamed official. A rescue worker suggested that there had been heavy rain around 10 a.m., when the ferry struck a strong wave and sank. “The boat flipped at a confluence of creeks—these are small, narrow creeks connecting villages," he said. Locals suggested that the boat, which was reportedly overloaded, flipped and lost balance, trapping young children underneath.

The accident took place as strong winds and heavy rain battered the area, causing large waves and strong currents in waterways. Reports indicate that many residents of the vast region rely heavily on poorly-maintained river ferries for cheap transportation, since many areas are inaccessible by road. 138,000 people were killed and thousands more were left homeless when when Cyclone Nargis devastated the region in May 2008.