Kinshasa: Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo said on Sunday they had abandoned all hope of finding more survivors, after as many as 100 people went missing when their boat sank on the Congo River.
"We shouldn`t even think about finding any survivors," Jean-Christophe Malela, an official in the western Bandundu province, told AFP, pointing out that the accident occurred on Thursday in an area of rapids.
The accident took place when two boats collided near the city of Kwamouth, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) northeast of the capital Kinshasa, Malela said.
Rescuers have so far recovered nine bodies and 42 people had made it to safety, he said.
The World Health Organisation cited survivors as saying there may have been close to 150 people onboard the boat that sank.
Malela said the mishap probably occurred when the overcrowded boat lost speed after one of its engines got caught in a fishing net as it tried to avoid hitting a bigger boat.
Rescue operations to recover bodies for burial would continue.
Authorities said they could not be sure of the exact number of people on board in the absence of any departure records.
The second boat suffered no damages or casualties.
The WHO said on Friday that it was providing medical kits to support a search operation launched by national and provincial authorities, including 100 body bags.
Deadly shipping disasters are common in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to overcrowding on old and poorly-maintained vessels, a lack of life-jackets and the fact that many people do not know how to swim.
Last Monday, at least 20 people died in another sinking further upstream on the Congo River.