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Boat Carrying Somali Refugees Hits Reef, More Than 130 Dead

March 3, 1991

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ A boat carrying hundreds of Somali refugees struck a reef off Kenya and sank, killing more than 130 people, newspapers reported.

The accident of a vessel ferrying about 600 people occurred Friday near Malindi, a tourist resort about 400 miles southeast of Nairobi.

First accounts of the accident were Sunday in Kenyan newspapers. Two English-language dailies said the accident occurred one mile off shore, but a third said it was six miles away.

Police, navy divers, tourists and local residents had recovered about 130 bodies by Saturday afternoon, but 50 victims were believed still trapped in the sunken vessel, according to the newspapers.

Confirmation from local authorities of the accounts was not immediately available.

The boat with the refugees had set sail from the Somali town of Kismayo, 250 miles north of Malindi, on Feb. 26.

It was one of a stream of vessels that brought thousands of Somalis seeking refuge to Kenya since rebels overthrew Somalia’s President Mohamed Siad Barre in late January. The victory followed a month of heavy fighting in Mogadishu, capital of that East African nation.

The fighting appears largely to have stopped since the rebel United Somali Congress established an interim government, but refugees continue to arrive in Kenya.

Abdi Mohammed Ali, a survivor, was quoted as telling the Standard newspaper that most of those who drowned were on the ship’s lower deck.

First word of the accident came when two survivors staggered into the Jambo Club tourist hotel, manager Barney Ngare was quoted as saying by the Sunday Nation.

The hotel sent a small boat to help save those still on the sinking vessel, but rescue workers had to cut the lifeline when too many people grabbed hold, Ngare was quoted as saying.

Another boat sent by the hotel ferried 15 people at a time to shore, said the Nation.

Eleven Somalis drowned when a boat capsized off Kenya near Lamu, north of Malindi, on Feb. 1.

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