A one-year-old child died and 23 people were missing and feared dead after a hippopotamus charged into and capsized a canoe on a river in southern Malawi, according to authorities.
Police in the southern African country’s southern district of Nsanje said on Tuesday that the vessel was carrying 37 people across the Shire River when the incident took place on Monday morning.
Malawian police rescued 13 with the help of World Food Programme personnel who were working in the area and provided boats for the rescue operation, Nsanje District Police Commissioner Dominic Mwandira said.
Nsanje police spokeswoman Agnes Zalakoma said that rescuers also retrieved the lifeless body of a one-year-old who had drowned in the collision, she said.
“The search mission to locate the missing individuals is currently under way,” Zalakoma said, adding that the canoe started to list and eventually capsized after the hippo collided with it.
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.
The Shire is Malawi’s largest river.
Boat accidents are common in Malawi, where the lack of regular water transport forces many to cross lakes and rivers in sometimes-rickety boats, in the absence of regulations.
Last month, at least five people died after an overcrowded boat sank in Malawi’s central district of Mchinji.