August 9, 2011 / 12:32 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 1-At least 50 drown after Comoros boat capsizes

* More feared dead after vessel’s engines fail, hits rock

* Boats important form of transport on island (Adds survivor, Red Cross)

By Ahmed Ali Amir

MORONI, Aug 9 (Reuters) - At least 50 people including children drowned in rough seas when a passenger boat sunk off the Comoros archipelago in the early hours of Tuesday after its engines failed, the country’s public prosecutor said.

The vessel was ferrying more than 100 people from the capital Moroni to the island of Anjouan when it hit rocks about 3 km (1.8 miles) off the coast of the main island after both its motors cut out, causing the boat to capsize, said public prosecutor Soilih Mahmoud.

“Fifty bodies have been recovered so far but some bodies remain trapped in the submerged wreckage and will only be retrieved when the seas calm,” the prosecutor added.

Boats are an important mode of transport between the Indian Ocean archipelago’s three islands and accidents are relatively common on the island, which is sandwiched between Madagascar and southern Africa.

Survivor Ali Abdou Moussa said both engines on the boat packed up at the same time in turbulent seas.

“The port authorities were alerted but no help came. The boat drifted and hit a rock. Some of us swam to shore and called for help, but it wasn’t until eight o’clock that a rescue effort got underway,” Moussa told Reuters.

Some survivors like himself managed to swim ashore, he said.

The Red Cross said about 60 survivors had been taken to hospital at Ouzioine and Foumbouni.

Witnesses at the dock at the time of the boat’s departure said the ferry was overloaded with people. (Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by James Macharia)

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