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More Than 150 Killed When Boat Carrying Somalis Sank

March 4, 1991 GMT

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ A boat carrying hundreds of Somali refugees fleeing their war-racked nation has sunk after hitting a coral reef in the Indian Ocean off Kenya’s coast, killing at least 153, police said today.

Police would not comment on newspaper reports that more than 40 people were still missing after the sinking, which happened late Friday.

The 60-foot dhow carrying perhaps as many as 700 Somalis sank about 6 miles off the coast near Malindi, a popular tourist town 380 miles southeast of Nairobi.

News reports quoted local police as saying 515 people survived the tragedy, although the duty officer at police headquarters in the capital could not confirm that figure.

The bodies of 132 victims were recovered Saturday and 21 were found in the wreckage of the boat and along the coast Sunday, the officer said on condition of anonymity.

According to survivors and rescuers, many of those who died were trapped in the boat’s lower deck. Some appeared to have been trampled to death, while others were trapped under a plastic tarpaulin, according to newspaper reports.

″We found some mothers still holding their dead children with their arms wrapped around one another,,″ Antonio Carbone, a diving instructor at the Jambo Club hotel in Malindi, told the Daily Nation newspaper.

First word of Friday’s tragedy came when two survivors staggered into the Jambo Club tourist hotel, according to news reports.

The boat left the Somali coastal town of Kismayu on Feb. 26. Rebels of the United Somali Congress are trying to dislodge troops loyal to Somalia’s deposed President Mohamed Siad Barre in the countryside around Kismayu, located about 250 miles north of Malindi.

The United Somali Congress chased Siad Barre from Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu and seized control of the nation on Jan. 26 following a month of heavy fighting in the city.

Thousands were killed and wounded in the battles, which sent refugees fleeing into Kenya by land and sea.

More than 3,000 refugees have sailed to Kenya’s coastal commercial hub, Mombasa, and more than 30,000 have arrived at the border towns of Mandera, Garissa and Liboi, according to newspaper reports.

On Feb. 1, 11 Somalis drowned when their boat capsized off the Kenyan coast near Lamu, north of Malindi. About 31 people survived that accident.