Hundreds Drown in Attempt to Flee South Sudan

Women, children die on overloaded vessel
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2014 6:14 AM CST
Hundreds Drown on Ferry Fleeing South Sudan
Women carry belongings on their heads as they head toward the United Nations Mission in South Sudan base in Malakal, Sunday, Jan 12, 2014.   (AP Photo/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin)

Some 400,000 people have now fled South Sudan amid weeks of fighting, the UN says; at least 200 drowned on a ferry trying to escape. "The reports we have are of between 200 to 300 people, including women and children. The boat was overloaded," an army rep tells AFP. He says the incident occurred today, while other reports indicate it was overnight Sunday. "They all drowned." He said they were fleeing Upper Nile state capital Malakal, which has been under both rebel and government control; it’s situated near the state’s oil fields.

The rebels have launched a new attack on the area, where some 19,000 people have sought shelter at a peacekeeping base, a UN spokesman says. Malakal, the BBC notes, sits near the White Nile, which thousands of civilians have tried to cross in a bid to escape. Many, however, can’t afford a boat ride; one refugee tells the BBC she had to borrow $66 to get across. A recent estimate puts the death toll of the conflict at 10,000. (More South Sudan stories.)

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