April 8, 2006

Death toll in Djibouti sinking reaches 109

DJIBOUTI (Reuters) - Rescuers in Djibouti found 37 more
bodies on Saturday from an overloaded boat that sank two days
ago, bringing the death toll to 109 in one of the Red Sea
nation's worst disasters, officials said.

The bodies were pulled out of the water near the port in
Djibouti, where the wooden boat capsized on Thursday carrying
some 250 people to an annual religious pilgrimage.

"We got these bodies because the water is calm," said
Colonel Zachariah Ahmed Sheikh, a Djiboutian army officer in
charge of the rescue.

Hospital officials had earlier said 41 bodies had been
found, but later revised that down to 37.

Djiboutian rescuers, with divers and equipment from the
American and French military and a helicopter, found the bodies
after resuming the search when dawn broke.

All day long, rescuers plucked more corpses from the water
and the search continued even when rain -- a relatively rare
occurrence in Djibouti -- fell in the afternoon.

The victims died within 100 yards of the dock the boat
sailed from as it was steaming to the town of Tadjoura, 22
miles northeast. It had three times the number of passengers it
was built for crammed aboard.