A body has been recovered and two more people rescued from the waters, raising the death toll to three and 25 missing in the sinking of a small ferry on Thursday of the Gabonese capital Libreville, according to a new government report on Friday.
The Esther Miracle, a mixed passenger and freight vessel sailing from Libreville to the oil port of Port-Gentil, sank in the middle of the night just off the coast, killing at least one child.
According to the government's report of the day, 28 of the 151 people on board, passengers and crew, were missing.
Two shipwrecked people have been found alive since Thursday evening, and one person's body has been recovered.
Brice Constant Paillat, the Minister of Transport, announced on the public television channel Gabon Première at midday on Friday that three people had died in the tragedy.
"Twenty-five missing persons continue to be sought and 123 have been rescued, of whom 73 have returned home and 50 are still under observation" in hospitals, according to Paillat.
He also insisted that "search operations at sea" were still ongoing. The minister did not say where the lifeless body was discovered or how two shipwrecked people were rescued the day before.
The likelihood of finding survivors more than thirty hours after the tragedy is decreasing.
"If, at nightfall, we have not found anyone it will, unfortunately, consider that there is a strong chance that the missing are dead"
Andre Patrick Roponat, the Republic of Libreville's prosecutor, estimated for the news media on Thursday afternoon.
In anticipation of the findings of an investigation into the causes of the sinking, the government has suspended overnight travel for all passenger ships until at least March 31 and ordered an "audit of all naval units dedicated to passenger transport" in the country.
The ship, whose construction date is unknown - the private company that owns it, Royal Cost Marine (RCM), did not return phone calls - and which was purchased and inaugurated on this route last November, was carrying "134 adult passengers, four children under six years of age, 10 crew members and three defence force officers" according to the government.
Among the dozens of survivors seen disembarking in Libreville on Thursday morning from fishermen's pirogues, an army patrol boat, and a large barge belonging to an oil logistics company that was cruising not far from the shipwreck, the vast majority were wearing life jackets.
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