Families of Senegal ferry disaster victims want memorial
Relatives of more than 1,800 people who died when a Senegalese ferry sank in 2002 said Tuesday they wanted a memorial museum erected to honour the victims of one of history's worst maritime disasters.
A committee set up by the families made the request days before the ninth anniversary of the disaster in which the Joola capsized on its way from the southern Senegalese enclave of Casamance to the capital Dakar.
There were only 64 survivors and between 1,863 and 1,935 dead or missing, after the sinking of the overloaded boat off the coast of the Gambia, which was made to accommodate just over 500 passengers.
"Since the Joola sank on 26 September 2002 ... the victims' families have been fighting against oblivion, for the memory of those lost, for truth and justice and for the care of orphaned children," committee coordinator Nassardine Aidara said.
The committee represents four Senegalese and French groups which had already prepared a project for a memorial museum facing the Atlantic in Dakar, which Aidara said would also serve to reinforce maritime safety.
He charged that "nine years after the disaster, the state had not allocated sufficient funds" to look after children orphaned by the tragedy.
Aidara also demanded that the authorities "raise the shipwreck to allow the families to find closure and bury their loved ones."
The toll in the Joola disaster surpasses that of the 1912 sinking of the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean when around 1,500 people died.
The greatest maritime disaster on record was the torpedoing of the German liner Wilhelm Gustloff packed with refugees by a Russian submarine in the Baltic in 1945, when more than 9,000 people died.
© 2011 AFP