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Gabon arrests 33 after ferry disaster

Relatives and friends stand next to candles and flowers placed for missing people from a ferry disaster is displayed at the port in Libreville on March 13, 2023.   -  
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STEEVE JORDAN/AFP or licensors


Thirty-three people have been arrested under a criminal investigation into a ferry accident off Gabon last week that claimed 24 lives, rescue coordinators said Sunday..

Rescue teams are looking for another 13 listed as missing after a small passenger boat, the Esther Miracle, sank off the capital Libreville on March 9 with 161 onboard.

Those detained include officials at the ministry of transport, the merchant marine and the vessel's owner, Royal Cost Marine, according to the public prosecutor Andre Patrick Roponat .

Transport Minister Brice Paillat stepped down on Thursday following an outcry by relatives and civil society groups.

Four other officials in the merchant marine and maritime affairs administration have also been suspended.

The Esther Miracle began service last November, shuttling between Libreville and the oil city of Port-Gentil farther south.

It started taking on water during an overnight trip and sank around 10 kilometres (six miles) off the coast.

Many survivors said they received negligible help or guidance from the crew.

Some spent hours at sea clinging onto inflatable rafts before they were rescued by a flotilla of motorised canoes and a supply barge for the oil industry.

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