FREETOWN (Reuters) – More than a dozen people are presumed to have drowned in two separate boat incidents in Sierra Leone this week, authorities said on Wednesday.
Five people died when two makeshift passenger boats collided off the southern district of Bonthe on Monday, the head of the country’s maritime administration told Reuters.
Another nine people are missing from an overloaded passenger boat that capsized off the capital Freetown on Tuesday.
Fisheries Minister Emma Kowa-Jalloh told Reuters the vessel was weighed down by the crews of four fishing trawlers returning from weeks at sea.
“We have invited the survivors and the bereaved families to a meeting to know our next steps,” she said.
Freetown’s port is not equipped to receive and offload fishing trawlers, which usually rely on smaller boats to bring their catch and crew to shore.
Authorities accuse trawlers of ignoring safety protocols and overloading carrier boats.
Maritime safety has improved in Sierra Leone since dozens of people died in a boat incident in 2013.
But accidents remain relatively common in the West African country with a long coastline and many riverine communities, particularly during the height of the rainy season that runs from July to September.
(Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Editing by Sofia Christensen and Bill Berkrot)