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43 corpses recovered in capsizing of Mali boat

| Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, 9:15 p.m.

KOUBI, Mali — Mahmoudou Ibrahim combed the waters frantically for his family after they and hundreds of other passengers were catapulted into the Niger River when their boat capsized.

Amid the cries for help in the darkness of night, he listened in vain for the sound of their voices.

On Sunday morning, crews pulled the bloated bodies of three of his children from the river: 1-year-old Ahmadou, 3-year-old Salamata and 4-year-old Fatouma.

There is still no sign of his wife, Zeinabou, or their 5-year-old twin girls, who were last seen curled up on mats aboard the ship.

“The pain that I feel today is beyond excruciating,” he said from the village cemetery where he buried the remains of his three children on Sunday in the sandy dirt.

By nightfall, a total of 43 corpses had been recovered from the river since the accident on Friday night, said Hamadoun Cisse, a local official in charge of tracking casualty figures.

Passengers on the capsized boat said they believed hundreds of people were on the overladen vessel when it sank Friday. But the ship's owner did not have a full list of who was on board, making it impossible to determine the actual number of people missing.

The boat was headed from the central port of Mopti to the northern desert city of Timbuktu, packed full of people traveling for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha this week. Many Malians choose to travel by river, even though the journey takes several days and nights, because it is easier than traversing the region's poor desert roads.

The accident took place near the village of Koubi, about four miles from Konna.

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