CONAKRY - About 30 people were believed to have drowned after an overloaded boat sank off the coast of Guinea, as rescue workers said Saturday they had given up hope of finding survivors after an all-night search.
"We are continuing the search without hope of finding survivors, that means about 30 are already dead," rescue official Lanfia Camara told AFP.
"It is difficult and even unthinkable that we could find a survivor in the water after more than 15 hours without rescue.
None of the passengers were wearing a life vest when they boarded."
The pirogue, a flat-bottomed boat used by fishermen and for transport, capsized a few minutes after setting off for Kassa Island which lies several kilometres (miles) from the capital Conakry on Friday.
Camara said authorities at the Boulbinet Port jetty were to blame as they "don't even know how many people boarded" the boat.
A paramilitary police officer had told AFP that a total of 58 people were on the boat, which had the capacity to carry about 20 people, when it went down in the Atlantic.
"The pilot of the boat was doing his first voyage," he said on condition of anonymity. Officials at the scene said many women and babies were believed to have been aboard.
Doctor Mohamed Awada, director-general of a Conakry hospital, confirmed eight bodies had been found and 27 people saved.
"The eight dead drowned and the 27 survivors are suffering more or less from trauma and fear. They were retrieved by fishermen and security forces."
Scores of weeping family members crowded the morgue and hospital for news of their loved ones, an AFP journalist said.
One of the survivors, Aissata Camara, a women in her sixties, said the boat had been carrying large bags of "cement and flour".
A similar accident in July left about 20 people dead when a boat capsized on the way from Conakry to Freetown in neighbouring Sierra Leone. - AFP