Child dead and 23 people missing after hippopotamus capsizes canoe

Child dead and 23 people missing after hippopotamus capsizes canoe

May 17, 2023

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Blantyre, Malawi: A 1-year-old child died, and 23 people are missing and feared dead after a hippopotamus charged into and capsized a canoe on a river in southern Malawi, authorities say.

The long wooden canoe was carrying 37 people across the Shire River on their way to neighbouring Mozambique when it was hit by the hippo in the Nsanje district on Monday.

HippoCredit: AP

Malawian police rescued 13 people with the help of World Food Program personnel who were working in the area and provided boats for the rescue operation, Nsanje District Police Commissioner Dominic Mwandira said.

The people were feared dead because the search had been going on for more than 24 hours, police spokesperson said.

“Officers have been on the scene since yesterday when the accident was reported, searching for missing persons,” police spokeswoman for Nsanje district Agnes Zalakoma told the BBC.

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera sent Minister of Water and Sanitation Abida Mia to the scene. She said locals told her hippos often caused problems in the area and they wanted authorities to relocate some of the animals.

Malawi’s Minister of Water and Sanitation, Gladys Ganda left, waits with government official Abide Mia, right, for news updates from the rescue.Credit: AP

Local politician Gladys Ganda has been lobbying for funds to build a bridge so that people do not have to cross the Shine River, which is home to hippos and crocodiles, by boat and canoe.

Zalakoma told CNN on Tuesday that it was dangerous to cross the Shine and accidents are common.

“It is too dangerous because it is too shallow and in this river there are crocodiles that most of the time attack people and also hippopotamus that cause incidents like the one we’re dealing with,” Zalakoma said.

The BBC reports there has been previous drownings due to vessels capsizing but it was rare for a hippo to charge at a boat in that part of Malawi.

However, other attacks have taken place in the country, including on fishermen, with the species known to be territorial and females, in particular, to be aggressive.


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