Bamako: Twenty-six people drowned when two boats overturned in a swollen river in northwestern Mali, officials and local residents said.
“Two canoes carrying 48 people capsized on Saturday at Arnassey in Bourem Inaly district in the Timbuktu region," transport minister Soumana Mory Coulibaly said in a statement released overnight on Sunday.
“This sad accident caused the death of 26 people. Twenty-two bodies have been recovered." A local resident, Martala Salley, told AFP that the passengers were farmers who had decided to go to their fields by boat as the river had risen from seasonal rain, which made water transport possible.
"The two boats capsized before they reached their destination," said Yoro Maiga, a local councillor in the neighbouring district of Dire, explaining that winds had whipped up powerful currents.
"We were able to save some people — they weren't weighed down by heavy objects or luggage," Maiga said.
Transport accidents in Mali, a landlocked state in the Sahel, are common. Poor safety standards or equipment are typically cited as the main cause. Last month, 20 people died when the truck carrying them plunged into a river in the centre of the country.