A cargo ship illegally carrying 130 passengers sank off Madagascar’s northeastern coast, killing at least 17 people and leaving 68 missing, officials said Monday.
At least 45 people have been rescued from the waters of the Indian Ocean, according to a report from the Maritime and River Port Agency.
The ship, Francia, had left the city of Antanambe, in the eastern Mananara North district in the early hours of Monday, said the report. It was heading south toward the port of Soanierana Ivongo.
“As it is registered as a cargo ship, it is not authorized to carry passengers and Antanambe is not an official port,” said Jean Edmond Randrianantenaina, director-general of the Maritime and River Port Agency.
A hole in the ship’s hull is believed to have caused it to sink, he said.
“According to the information we were able to gather, water entered the engine room. The water started to rise and it swallowed up all the engines,” he said.
“Then the ship began to sink. We don’t know exactly what time the water started to rise, but our interventions began around 9:00 a.m.,” he said.
Three boats from the national navy and the maritime agency are continuing the search for those still missing.