22 children drown on their way to school when boat capsizes in Sudan

Sudan Floods Main
Children and adults make their way through floodwaters in Sudan (UNICEF / Nesbitt)

At least 22 children drowned on their way to school when their boat capsized in swollen waters of the Nile river north of the Sudanese capital yesterday.

A woman on board also died when the vessel carrying more than 40 children sank about 470 miles from the capital, SUNA news agency reported.

Rescue workers were sent to recover victims’ bodies, according to the Sudanese civil defence and a witness.

“This morning, 22 schoolchildren and one woman died when their boat sank in Bouhayra in Nile State as they travelled to school from Kneissa,” SUNA reported. “The accident was caused by engine failure halfway across because of a strong current.”

According to witness Ibrahim Hassan, at least nine children survived the ordeal.

Sudan Rain Closing Schools 1

Flooding destroys schools in Sudan

Three schoolgirls were killed and more than 200 schools destroyed or damaged after torrential rain caused devastation in Sudan earlier this month. The students died when a wall collapsed at a girls' school in Omdurman. Officials said it fell due to the heavy rainfall and flooding that has hit parts of Sudan. At least 211 schools have collapsed.

SUNA said the small boat was overloaded, carrying about 30 sacks of sweet potatoes and 10 bags of grain in addition to the children and the woman, an employee at a local hospital. Villagers in the region rely on wooden boats to cross the Nile.

Another witness told AFP by telephone that the boat had been crossing the river against the current.

“All the families (in the area) are in mourning,” said the witness, who did not want to be named.

In the deadliest Nile accident of its kind in Sudan, 50 students drowned in August 2000 when their wooden barge overturned 350 kilometres southeast of Khartoum.

Water levels in the Nile rise every year during the rainy season in Ethiopia, and United Nations aid agencies regularly warn of floods in Sudan between July and November.

"Those who died were mostly girls. One family lost five daughters, another three families lost two children each and two families lost three children each. Ab el-Khayr Adam Yunis, headmaster of Kenba High School, talking to the BBC