Gabon’s Transportation Minister resigns in wake of ferry disaster
Brice Paillat, Gabon’s Transportation Minister, tendered on Thursday his resignation to President Ali Bongo Ondimba, few days after the sinking of a ferry off the capital coasts, killing 21 people.
“The Deputy Minister of Transport will handle day-to-day business until a new minister is appointed,” state-run news agency AGP announced, adding that the Gabonese leader has accepted the resignation.
Paillat’s exit from the cabinet comes a few days after a ferry known as Esther Miracle carrying 161 people from Libreville to Port-Gentil sank when it capsized in calm waters on March 9 close to the coastal village of Nyonie.
124 have been rescued and 21 confirmed dead. Search is still ongoing to rescue the remaining others.
The resignation also came two days after several people including Director General of the Merchant Navy, Fidèle Angoué Mba, and his deputy, were detained in connection with investigations into the causes of the tragedy.
Andre Patrick Roponat, the Libreville public prosecutor, told AFP news agency an inquiry had been launched to determine whether negligence, poor maintenance or “factors beyond human control” caused the accident.
The Gabonese government also suspended overnight passenger ship voyages until at least March 31 and ordered an audit of all passenger vessels.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba decreed a three-day national mourning. He also banned all sport and entertaining programs in line with the mourning to take place March 14-16.