BAMAKO, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- At least 20 people died and 23 went missing following a boat accident near the central Malian city of Mopti, according to the latest information reaching here.
"There were 210 survivors, 20 people died and 23 others are still missing," the regional civilian protection agency said in a statement in reference to Saturday's accident at Koubi.
Citing rescuers, the statement said the number of survivors and victims was likely to increase as the rescue mission was going on. There were different sayings about the number of passengers on board, from 300 to 500.
Sources close to the security forces said experienced swimmers had been deployed to the area to reinforce the rescue efforts since it is believed there were more than 500 people in the ill- fated vessel.
Most of the passengers were heading to their villages for Muslim's Tabaski festival to be celebrated on Tuesday.
A helmsman told Xinhua that the accident could have been caused by overloading.
"The boat that capsized broke into two," the helmsman told Xinhua, adding that the boat was the biggest along the route.
"There were between 250 and 300 people," he added, as he steered his boat towards Dire in the northern region of Timbuktu.