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213 MISSING AFTER BOAT CAPSIZES IN SIERRA LEONE

Associated Press

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone - More than 200 people, including many children returning from holidays, were feared dead Thursday, a day after a wooden boat capsized at sea, officials said.

Thirty-nine were rescued Thursday off the coast of the West African nation, said naval Lt. Cmdr. Mao Suma, who led the rescue operation, which will continue at least until Saturday.

Search teams recovered 16 bodies, Suma said, and 213 people were missing.

"We are not expecting any more survivors because of the turbulence of the sea in the area where the accident happened," Suma said. "The sea is so turbulent and the tide very strong that it is difficult for anyone to swim."

"On the day of the accident the sea was rough and it was windy," police official Ibrahim Samura said, adding that the boat may have capsized because of overloading. The Teh Teh carried at least 268 people and some cargo.

Sierra Leone is in the middle of its rainy season, with persistent and heavy storms affecting both land and sea.

Boat accidents are common in West Africa, where road systems are poor and many people rely on rickety watercraft to move their wares to market.

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