At least 20 dead and many more missing in Mali boat accident

BAMAKO (REUTERS) - At least 20 people were killed and as many as 170 were unccounted for after a boat overloaded with passengers and goods capsized on the Niger River in Mali, local residents and officials said on Saturday.

The boat was travelling north from Mopti towards the city of Timbuktu when it sank around 4km from the town of Konna late on Friday.

"Right now we have recovered 20 bodies and 210 survivors. There are also 10 wounded ... This death toll could still go up," Mr Demba Tiemouga, a local government official from Konna, told Reuters.

A hospital official in Konna said it was believed as many as 400 passengers may have been aboard the boat at the time of the accident. Recovery operations were still under way on Saturday afternoon.

Poor roads and the relatively high cost of overland travel make West and Central Africa's waterways important transport arteries. Enforcement of safety regulations is lax and accidents are common.

Eight people drowned earlier on Friday in Gambia when a ferry sank in bad weather 12km north of the tiny country's capital Banjul.

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