msnbc.com news services
updated 7/25/2008 11:20:20 AM ET 2008-07-25T15:20:20

A motorized boat sank in northern Congo, killing at least 47 people and leaving around 100 missing, officials said Friday.

Mathieu Modeste Bella, the district commissioner of North Ubangi province, said that the bodies of the victims had been recovered from the Ubangi River. Twenty-seven survivors were also helped to shore.

"The rest of the passengers, more than 100, have disappeared. We do not know what happened to them," he said.

Bella said the boat was carrying at least 182 passengers, mostly merchants but also women and children.

"The passengers were fishermen and people living by the river," Bella said. "The accident happened on Tuesday night when the boat struck a rock in the dark. There are no signs or signals, which does nothing to help navigation."

The boat went down on Tuesday night after it left the Congo town of Mobayi Bongo, located around 700 miles northeast of Congo's capital, Kinshasa. It was headed for the Central African Republic, which shares a border with Congo.

No help from national governments
Bella said local authorities had not received any help from the government of either Congo or Central African Republic due to the lack of information and inaccessibility.

The fishermen were among dozens of people who were using the boat to cross the river.

Fishermen regularly join traders on overloaded boats crossing the Ubangi river to ferry their catch and various other goods to markets in both countries.

Congo is a vast mineral-rich nation but roads are almost non-existent outside the main towns so travel is often limited to airplanes and boats plying its huge network of rivers.

Accidents are frequent due to over-loading and lack of maintenance.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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