Two decades after the Joola disaster in Senegal, the families of the victims still unable to grieve

In this edition, a look back at a terrible shipwreck with an even heavier toll than that of the Titanic. On September 26, 2002, the Joola disaster claimed at least 1,800 lives. The ferry was sailing between the Senegalese province of Casamance and the capital Dakar. In the middle of the night, 40 kilometers from the coast, the boat capsized after being hit by tropical rains and strong winds. It took more than 16 hours for help to arrive on the scene. Only 64 passengers survived the night of hell. Sarah Sakho and Sam Bradpiece of FRANCE 24 revisit the tragedy, two decades later.

The Joola disaster had multiple causes. The ship, managed by the Senegalese Navy, was in poor condition. It was overloaded, with four times as many passengers as the maximum allowed. The vehicles in the hold were not secured. The captain of the ferry, himself deceased, probably made a navigational error.

The families of the victims have long tried to find out the truth about what happened. Some sued the Senegalese government for “negligence”, but the case was dismissed in 2003. Legal proceedings also began here in France, where several of the victims originated from, but they were unsuccessful. Twenty years later, the families of the victims are continuing their fight so that the Joola disaster is not forgotten. In particular, they want the wreckage of the ship to be brought up from the seabed so that they can begin to mourn properly.

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