Senegal’s Joola Ferry Disaster Families Fight for Justice, 15 Years On

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Senegal’s Joola ferry disaster, one of the worst in maritime history, but on the tragedy’s 15th anniversary, victims families questions are left unanswered.

The Joola was carrying close to 2 000 passengers when it sank after departing from the city of Ziguinchor in Senegal’s southern Casamance region, bound for the capital. 1 863 people  died when the Joola ferry sunk off Senegal’s Atlantic coast on September 26, 2002.  It had a maximum capacity of 536 and just 64 people survived.  160 bodies that were recovered from the sunken ferry boat and were buried at a cemetery on Gambian soil.

Senegal’s justice system has failed to explain how so many lost their lives, the families of the victims believe, though a toxic mix of stormy weather and damaged engines are often blamed, along with massive overcrowding. “The victims’ families are calling for the shipwreck to be hauled up so we will know what happened,” said Diallo, now president of Senegal’s Joola victims’ association.

 A ceremony of remembrance was also held in the regional city, attended by the minister for the armed forces, the public APS news agency reported.

In 2003, Senegal closed an investigation into the disaster by pinning the sole responsibility on the ship’s captain, whose body was never found.


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