Scores feared dead after boat sinks off Bissau

BISSAU Fri Dec 28, 2012 11:15am EST

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BISSAU (Reuters) - Twenty-two people died and more than 75 were missing after an overloaded boat sank off the coast of Guinea-Bissau on Friday, hospital and port officials said.

The narrow wooden boat was ferrying 97 passengers and their luggage to the West African nation's capital Bissau from the island of Bolama when it began taking on water and sank around 11 a.m. (1100 GMT), Bissau Port Director Mario Domingos Gomes said.

Hospital sources said 22 bodies had arrived at the morgue in Bissau. Domingos Gomes said rescuers were searching for survivors from the pirogue, a hand-built vessel most often used for fishing across West Africa.

Tiny Guinea-Bissau is among the world's least developed nations and has been plagued by political turmoil since independence from Portugal in 1974.

As in much of the region, travel by land and sea is difficult and dangerous due to poor infrastructure and weak regulatory oversight.

(Reporting by Alberto Dabo; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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