The coastal ferry Le Joola sailed between South Senegal and the capital Dakar. On 26 September 2002, it had set out from South Senegal as usual when it encountered rough seas. Due to the wind and heavy rain, the ship inclined heavily to starboard. Suddenly it capsized over in just three minutes.
The people inside the vessel had no time to get out and sank with the boat, but were kept alive for some time by the air trapped inside the ship. Those who survived did so by jumping in the water, but unfortunately only one rescue fleet with room for 25 persons unfolded. Some survivors climbed onto the wreck of the ship, which was still floating, and waited for rescuing fishing boats. 1,863 people died in the accident.
The reason why the ship sank is to be found in the combination of its construction and the passengers onboard. Le Joola was built for carrying 536 passengers, equivalent to 40 tons, but more than 1,800 passengers, or 135 tons, were on the ship, when the accident happened. It was a flat-bottom ship, which was not designed sailing in high seas.
When the ship ran into rough sea, it began to roll from side to side, which caused both passengers (135 tons) and the goods (80 tons) to end at the starboard. The passengers on deck gathered in the leeward side to get out of the rain and wind, but because of their numbers, they reinforced the inclination. When the inclination was more than 20 percent the ship capsized.
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Links and references:
Report in French:
Technical explanation in Swedish:
A BBC reportage on the accident: