19 die in Irrawaddy boat accident

At least 19 people, including children as young as five, have been killed after a ferry boat flipped as it navigated a creek in Burma’s southern Irrawaddy delta.

The majority of the 70 people on board were students and teachers from schools in Irrawaddy division’s Saluseik and Padaukgon villages, close to Labutta township. They had been travelling to an inter-village football tournament in Michaungai along one of the many waterways used for transport in the delta.

Reports of the number of those killed however vary: AFP quoted Burmese officials yesterday as saying that 13 had died, while the China-based People’s Daily claimed that at least two dozen were killed.

A rescue worker said the boat came under heavy rain on the way to Michaungai, and flipped when it was struck by a wave at around 10am yesterday.

“The boat flipped at a confluence of creeks – these are small, narrow creeks connecting villages,” he said, speaking to DVB on condition of anonymity. He said that most of the bodies were of children aged between five and 15.

Around 20 people were saved by nearby fishermen and rescue teams made up of local authorities and NGOs operating in the region, he added. Some 20 people are still missing.

The boat was reportedly overloaded with passengers and lost balance. Locals in Labutta say that most of the younger victims died when they became trapped underneath the boat after it had flipped.

Labutta, where some 80,000 people died in May 2008 following cyclone Nargis, had been experiencing heavy rain and strong winds for about four days prior to the accident. The weather had reportedly caused a number of strong currents and waves in the surrounding creeks and rivers.

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