At least seven young schoolgirls who were going to take college entrance exams on Monday drowned after their canoe capsized on the Niger River near the town of Kouroussa in Upper Guinea, said a minister and a relative of a victim.
"We are struck by this bad news of the shipwreck of seven students who have lost their lives," the Minister of Pre-university Education and Literacy, Guillaume Hawing , who is in the region for launch the first tests of the examination.
Mamadi Kéita, a security guard, told AFP that he lost his half-sister in this drowning. "She was leaving with her comrades for the other side of the Niger River to face the first tests of their 7th-year entrance exam which begins on Monday".
"They embarked in an overloaded canoe which capsized under the weight of passengers and goods", he added in tears on the telephone. "All the girls came from Kourala district and were going to Balato sub-prefecture, 40 km from Kouroussa prefecture," he said.
Another local source assured AFP anonymously that the toll was only provisional and could be heavier. The operations to find bodies continue Sunday evening.